Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Enabling Interdisciplinary Research with SPARQL

Published onAug 20, 2023
Enabling Interdisciplinary Research with SPARQL

Difficult research questions often require considerable time and labor investments to compile data from disparate sources. The Wikidata Query Service (WDQS) allows users to search across Wikidata’s 17.8 billion triples (Haller, Polleres, Dobriy, Ferranti, & Mendez, 2022). The query service was enabled on Wikidata in 2016, providing a user-friendly interface for its SPARQL (pronounced "sparkle") end-point. SPARQL is a query language that allows you to search against semantic databases (W3C, 2013).

Not only does WDQS return raw data with outputs in JSON, TSV, CSV, and HTML but it also has native visualization tools that can render data as a map, image grid, timeline, bubble chart, entity graph, and more. A few examples illustrating the power of the Wikidata Query Service below:

Raw Data

Raw Data Exports of BHL Parts and Pages with DOIs in Wikidata. Image: (Dearborn, 2022$B)


An interactive map of deceased entomologists’ birthplaces, color-coded by era. Image: Dearborn, 2022


Birthdays of female scientific illustrators in BHL Image: (Dearborn, 2022

Entity Graphs

An entity graph of the BHL’s Partner Network; visualizing Property:P2652 “partnership with.” Image: (Dearborn, 2022

What other questions might be asked of BHL’s data with the potential to yield new insights about the natural world?

The Wikidata Query Service could also be leveraged for complex collections analysis and help to identify gaps in content coverage which could inform collection development and digitization activities. Sample questions might include:

  • Which publications in BHL have the greatest frequency of species descriptions and /or nomenclatural acts?

  • May I have a list of works published in / or about specific biodiversity hotspots  e.g. the African Great Lakes region?  The Congo Basin?  Upper Amazonia? New Guinea?

  • How many authors in BHL are women? – Women entomologists; botanists; herpetologists; collectors; scientific illustrators?

With WDQS, data from a variety of knowledge domains can inform interdisciplinary research questions. Subsequent data submission and linking work can advance opportunities for complex content analysis of the BHL corpus.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?