First things first. Can you tell us what ISIDORE is all about?

ISIDORE is a unified access platform that harvests, indexes, standardizes, enriches and disseminates over 5,500,000 humanities and social sciences (HSS) resources in open access from 6,000 different sources. ISIDORE was created in France by Huma-Num, a very large research infrastructure (TGIR). It is driven by the CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université and the Condorcet Campus, and it is funded by the French ministry of higher education, research and innovation.

In concordance with the principles of the semantic web, the ISIDORE platform uses different external vocabularies (thesaurus, disciplines, topics, places, concepts, name authorities, etc.) to enrich the collected data.

And where does ISIDORE on Demand come in?

Given the success of the ISIDORE platform – over a million users per year since 2011 –, we wished to allow researchers to use ISIDORE’s powerful tools on their own corpora for ongoing projects.  

We have therefore created ISIDORE on Demand, a set of computing services and APIs allowing individual researchers or research groups to use the semantic processing tools of the ISIDORE platform. These tools can serve to enrich documents that aren’t necessarily destined to public dissemination with the scientific vocabularies available on the ISIDORE platform.

We didn’t want to restrict ISIDORE to a unified portal providing access to published and final documents only – rather, we wished to offer a way to practice day-to-day research on a personal computer.

ISIDORE on Demand, currently still in development, is displayed on a demo website available in French, English and Spanish:, as well as on the CO.SHS website:

What do you mean by “semantic enrichment”?

On the ISIDORE platform, semantic enrichment is defined as a concept (i.e., an entry in a scientific vocabulary) linking together several documents, even if they come from different databases. The labels for these concepts are translated into at least three languages, which allows to suggest on-the-fly translations between ISIDORE documents. The semantic enrichments work like a glue, cementing documents together, thus allowing to discover previously unknown documents.

How was the service first developed?

Everything started in 2015. We had received requests, in France, to “open” the ISIDORE processing tools. During the 83rd Acfas Congress, in 2015, in Rimouski, here in Quebec, we met with colleagues from Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, McGill University and Érudit, and discussed the idea of making these tools available. There were also discussions in Toulouse, during the “Nouvelles collaborations scientifiques autour des infrastructures du numérique: France-Europe-Québec” [“New scientific collaborations around digital infrastructures: France-Europe-Quebec”] conference in November 2015 – the CO.SHS project was then in the works –, and we thought it would be a useful thing to do, as there seemed to be a demand for it.

In October 2016, we launched the implementation of ISIDORE on Demand during a hackathon on Érudit data with the Huma-Num/CNRS team developing ISIDORE and the Érudit team. This evolved into a very fruitful and concrete collaboration between our two countries.

And where is the project now?

The project has entered its creation and implementation phase in November 2016, following the hackathon between our teams in Montreal. We are now entering phase 2 in order to determine how to transition from a proof of concept to a more “industrial” device – this is how we proceed at Huma-Num, as it allows us to see how a tool is “placed” within communities.

Our developments now fit into a broader framework: in addition to our collaboration with the Open Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CO.SHS) in Canada, we are bringing ISIDORE on Demand to the European research infrastructure OPERAS, which aims to pool the services and activities of various European stakeholders of the field of scholarly communication in order to support open science in HSS. OPERAS will use ISIDORE on Demand as part of its discovery platform.

In the future, the Huma-Num team will handle the development and maintenance of the tools, but any assistance is welcome!

Do you work closely with the university community?

Yes, we have several colleagues in France, in Europe and elsewhere around the globe, who support the Huma-Num team and help stimulate, with their questions, our thoughts on the future of ISIDORE. For example, this year, we brought together a panel of researchers to help us reinvent the web portal interface. In the spring of 2017, we have also led three focus groups with Montreal researchers, in collaboration with Érudit, in order to nourish our reflection on the development of ISIDORE on Demand (click here to see the report – in French only). Our goal is to allow scientific communities – specifically in the humanities and literary fields – to use tools that are robust and readily available and to contribute to their enhancement.

What other tools do you provide to the community?

We have developed the widget ISIDORE Suggestions, built for the WordPress CMS, which allows direct usage without coding, and makes it possible to provide reading suggestions based on a scientific document. We have also developed IMOCO, which allows to use the ISIDORE settings to build a customized search engine for a specific corpus. Over the past few months, we have implemented a knowledge base that centralizes and indexes all of the information concerning the services provided by Huma-Num – including those related to ISIDORE – from general questions to extensive documentation.

Visit our website for more information on our tools and services and follow our blog to stay up to date on our latest news!