"Knowledge should be available free of charge so that it can increase possibilities for further new research, scholarship and application"
Associate Professor Maria Keet is based in the Department of Computer Science at UCT. Her research interests include knowledge engineering with ontologies, concept modelling, and related natural language generation. She currently teaches, among others, the Ontology Engineering Masters in Computer Science course and is the author of An Introduction to Ontology Engineering (2018), the world’s first textbook for computer scientists in this subfield.
Maria has an interest in open approaches towards knowledge production and dissemination, and believes that knowledge should be available free of charge so that it can increase possibilities for further new research, scholarship and application. She believes that open education resources play an important role in saving students and interested laypeople money on expensive textbooks and that they can help to facilitate redirection of resources into parallel activities, such as translation of content into multiple languages.
In February 2019, Maria was awarded a grant from the DOT4D project to update and enhance the original An Introduction to Ontology Engineering work into an online textbook package with more educationally relevant software, exercises and tutorials, rather than just being a static PDF. She also increased the amount of locally relevant examples and content.
What is the problem she is trying to address through open textbook development?
Maria aims to utilise her open textbook to fill the gap in educational material for ontology engineering in the world – not only for the development of ontologies, but also to enable computer scientists to devise new methods, techniques and tools to facilitate the development of better quality ontologies. Aimed at Honours and early postgraduate students, the work identifies and demarcates what ontology engineering is, introduces the reader to its essential components, provides explainers, summarised and digested versions of scientific papers, and exercises to interactively engage with the material.
In addition to addressing the need for a resource in this subject area recognised in the Association for Computing Machinery computing curriculum, she also aims to address the issue of cost savings for students, estimating that an imported commercially published textbook of this nature, if it existed, would cost in the region of R1 500 – R2 000.
The use of a Creative Commons licence on the textbook assists in boosting the global reach of the textbook, in that it enables adaptation and translation into a range of foreign languages. Usage data from the OpenUCT open access repository, where the original 2018 version of the textbook is hosted, indicate that the work has been accessed from Germany, France, USA, Norway, Vietnam, Canada and Estonia, among others. In addition to the main delivery channels of the textbook website and the OpenUCT repository, Maria also published the original 2018 work in The Open Textbook Library. It has since been picked up and is being disseminated by a number of international portals and repositories, such as unglue.it, OpenLibra and E-Books Directory.
What is her authorship approach?
Maria works as a solo author in terms of the production of the overall textbook package, but has forged collaborations with colleagues and students to address certain aspects of the materials development process. In line with this approach, she worked with Dr Zubeida Khan (a UCT PhD graduate and now Senior Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) on a new chapter for the updated 2020 release version. She also engaged with current and former students in the process of updating material, as well as colleagues who could assist with foreign language aspects of the work.
The students involved in the project gained significant experience in writing and refining the tools presented in the textbook; the tool developers in particular expressed pride in being included in the software page accompanying the textbook.