Meet the Members Council: Francesca Di Donato

30 June 2015 Comment

Hi, I’m Francesca Di Donato and I work at Net7, a software company based in Pisa, Italy. Before joining Net7, I worked as a researcher in Political Philosophy at the University of Pisa. My research focused on the transition in Scientific Communication from the Printing Age to the Digital Age. While looking at the history of Science Communication, I quickly realised how (artificial) restrictions in the free dissemination of scholarly results have become one of today’s most significant barriers to the evolution of human knowledge. So I became a fervent advocate of Open Access and Open Data and I’ve supported Europeana - and its vision to make Europe's cultural heritage accessible for all - from the very beginning.


Net7's headquarters, in Pisa. Image: Francesca Di Donato CC BY

Working at Net7 gave me the opportunity to realise the ideas I had been researching in the past, and that was very exciting! In particular, my work focuses on exploiting the potential of Semantic Web technologies in the Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage domains. In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to participate in more than twenty international R&D projects and to collaborate with SMEs and research institutions from all around the world. In some of these projects, such as in DM2E and Europeana Sounds, we partnered with Europeana and I had the pleasure to become part of its community and to contribute to its growth.

The dense network of relationships with leading thinkers and innovators and the amazing experiences we have had over recent years allowed us to develop an extensive know-how in applying Semantic Web technologies to Digital Libraries, particularly in the area related to document annotation. Annotating documents is something that has always been done by researchers, since the very invention of writing. However, today, thanks to the Semantic Web, we have the fascinating opportunity to connect all annotations made by all researchers worldwide into a unique, shared knowledge space, and to make these annotations accessible for all.

This is why, since 2010, we have been developing Pundit, an Open Source semantic annotation tool, awarded the LODLAM Challenge Prize in 2013. It is now further being developed within the Europeana Sounds project and, since 2014, the StoM project. Pundit allows users to add semantically-structured annotations to any document published on the web. Annotations can be used to enrich the semantics of existing documents and to link them into a global graph of interconnected knowledge, which facilitates their creative re-use and opens up new opportunities for studying and analyzing them in a collaborative fashion.

A demo page of Pundit. See: http://thepund.it/try-pundit/

I joined the Network Council hoping to help spread Europeana’s vision to an even larger community. In particular, I’m convinced of the need to increase the quantity and quality of data in Europeana through ad-hoc initiatives both top-down and bottom-up, arising from “creative” communities of practice. To this end, I will do my best to contribute in facilitating the development of new tools and services dedicated to a wide array of different audiences. If you have ideas that you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me! #AllezCulture