RKB: a Knowledge Base to Support Research Documentation, Data, GIS Communications and Data for a Major Rail Freight Project

RKB: a Knowledge Base to Support Research Documentation, Data, GIS Communications and Data for a Major Rail Freight Project


M Wigan, Napier University, UK


The paper will place this data and document access, use and exploration system in the context of the Data Observatories movement, as well as the document repository systems now becoming mandated for universities


The titled issue was addressed by Napier University Edinburgh to meet operational requirements for ReOrient: a major EU FW6 project on railway integration and barriers to this: this demands a wide range of new and existing data and documents to be brought together in a immediately usable, downloadable and searchable form, plus data exploration and thematic map forms of examination to bring the costs and time required to access and use such information into the operational domain and restricted timetable of a short two year project. It also had to be achieved with a maximum of 2-3 man years of effort to be built, deployed populated, managed documented and delivered.

This meant that the largest datasets on freight and transport in the EU (as well as all the new ones collected in reorient) had to be rapidly accessible, explorable and usable? and as a result their inclusion in the RKB would be perhaps the most comprehensively documented and usable archive for data yet available. This was indeed the goal, and the one this paper is designed to show is achievable rapidly and effectively ? even for small units.

The Knowledge Transfer aspects are also extremely important. At least one 5million element major EU database is still ? two years after project competition ? not available to anyone in a usable form: it was just one of the systems included and delivered within the RKB before the mid point of the project?

It also had to implemented to ensure a professional level of external ongoing support for key components as well as clean and auditable open source coding and major Open Source tools to make quite certain that the system was solid and built to be used at a very high reliability and facility level by the half way stage of the project. The RKB could not be left to deliver at the very end of the project as it was designed to be a key tool to assist in its development and progress.

A point that is not immediately apparent is that this was designed by highly experienced research people, and so the approach was different to systems designed mainly for final access to the detrius and documentation after the end of a project- ie the normal ?Document repository? objective.

The RKB had to telescope the time and effort overheads of making complex transport datasets. This is illustrated in the present paper by the range of analysis, access, time series diagrams, graphs, thematic mapping OD matrix displays, desireline mappings and many other tools normally only accessible after the time consuming heavy lifting of securing a dataset, setting it up, understanding it, loading it into a specialised analysis system and producing special maps and diagrams to communicate the results. Furthermore, the GIS tools needed to be used to manage and standardise the input of many subcontractors collecting data ? so a vector oriented network editor and data collection support system was needed and implemented.

The RKB has all these tools inbuilt so that the process of data set search, identification exploration and visual and tabular and regression analyses are all part of the same access session?

This is one area where the productivity issues really benefit, and the reductions in user overheads in making use of data sets are cut back to an absolute minimum.

The RKB is presented not only as a multidimensional repository, but also as a high level productivity tool designed for globally distributed researchers, and supporting them with tailored tools as well as visualisation and data exploration and documentation.

Transport has long needed such a system, not only to make effective use of what already exists ? but also to raise the productivity and speed of progress of the research and projects undertaken in this increasingly complex domain.

The RKB shows that it is a promise that can be made ? and kept.


Association for European Transport