CLARIN – What’s in it for us?

Originally posted at on September 17, 2015 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

Now that the UK has joined the CLARIN European Infrastructure Consortium, it time to consider the actual and potential benefits for UK researchers. See also CLARIN for Beginners and UK joins the CLARIN family for more background.

Exploring online language resources

The CLARIN Virtual Language Observatory offers a single point to search for thousands of language resources held in hundreds of repositories around the world. The CLARIN Federated Content Search allows researchers to search for patterns in these resources, for example cross-searching multiple corpora held in different repositories with a single query, such as searching for occurrences of a word or phrase.

Access to protected resources via single sign-on

While CLARIN aims for open access where possible, in many cases, for a variety of good reasons, users need to log in and obtain authorization to access certain online resources. For this to work for you in the CLARIN domain, you need to have a Shibboleth identifier and password supplied by your parent institution, which needs to be registered as an identity provider with the UK Access Management Federation, and to have opted in to eduGAIN. Usually, this just means using your usual institutional single sign-on credentials. You can see some of the resources which are available this way on the web page Easy access to protected resources. As well being used for negotiating authentication and authorization to access data and tools, having a persistent and reliable identifier enables services to recognize you and this allows you to save settings, datasets, workflows, etc., enabling an enhanced user experience.

Single sign-on access to your resources

As well as all researchers in the UK having access to protected resources in all of the CLARIN repositories via eduGAIN and the CLARIN Federation, you can use these mechanisms to control user access to your online resources. To do this you need to register as a shibboleth service provider with the UK Access Management Federation, and then to make some configuration changes on your web server to allow authentication via eduGAIN. The Oxford Text Archive is currently going through this process, and I’ll report back in a future blog with more information on how to do this.

Attending events

Certain CLARIN events are only open to, or offer preferential access to, persons working in CLARIN member countries, so now we are eligible to attend these. In occasional cases, but by no means all, funding is available to facilitate attendance (see for example this workshop) last year, and this forthcoming ‘Creative Camp’. More events to follow soon!

Eligibility to access services.

Certain CLARIN services (e.g. the legal helpdesk) are only available to  persons working in CLARIN member countries. As the number of advice centres increases in the ‘knowledge-sharing infrastructure’, this is likely to become a more significant benefit.

Mobility grants

Researchers in CLARIN countries are eligible for small CLARIN mobility grants to facilitate short visits between centres in different countries, to carry out CLARIN-related work. There is a call open now for proposals for mobility grants.

Other benefits for CLARIN-UK consortium members

  • Visibility in the Virtual Language Observatory for online resources and repositories
  • Publicity and dissemination via, email lists and newsflashes
  • Funding to attend CLARIN workshops, conferences and events in the CLARIN-PLUS Horizon2020
  • Opportunities to host events
  • Participation in future Horizon2020 projects.

This last point is likely to be of particular importance. Participation can take place if your institution joins a project consortium, which is similar to how it worked in FP7, or via a new mechanism which allows individuals to work on H2020 projects on secondment to CLARIN ERIC. Such secondments usually include payment of full direct costs plus an overhead, although the arrangements in particular funding schemes and projects may vary.

CLARIN-UK: latest news and forthcoming opportunities

Originally posted at on April 22, 2015 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

CLARIN-UK: a new consortium and a new CLARIN country

The UK is currently preparing an application to join the CLARIN European Research Infrastructure Consortium as an Observer. The Arts and Humanities Research Council, in cooperation with JISC and the other research councils, will make the agreement, and will work closely with the CLARIN-UK consortium to monitor the benefits to the national community. CLARIN-UK currently has ten member institutions, and more are welcome. Members of the consortium have resolved to share the cost of the annual fee (c. £1000 per institution per annum) and staff in consortium member institutions will be eligible for participation in CLARIN activities. Please get in touch if you’d like to join – there is still time to be part of the initial consortium.

CLARIN – a growing family

In the past six months, Portugal, Sweden, Lithuania and Greece have joined CLARIN as full members. Croatia, Finland and Slovenia are close to full membership too, waiting only to cross some minor political and administrative hurdles. As well as the imminent application for observer status from the UK, France and Italy are also considering similar moves. Norway should soon progress from observer to full member status, and negotiations are under way in almost all other European countries.


CLARIN will receive a major funding boost in the next few years, with the news that the CLARIN-PLUS proposal has been successful and is moving to the grant agreement preparation stage. CLARIN-PLUS offers extra resources to accelerate and extend the construction of the CLARIN infrastructure, including strengthening the central hub, and spreading the reach of CLARIN to more countries and to more users. CLARIN-PLUS will be funded as part of the INFRADEV-3 scheme in Horizon2020, a closed call for ERICs in the implementation phase. The start date is September 2015, and the programme of work includes numerous opportunities for CLARIN-UK consortium members, including workshops on how to create a CLARIN centre, and how to integrate your tools and data.

CLARIN ERIC in Horizon2020

As well as the major success of CLARIN-PLUS, CLARIN ERIC has been successful in a number of Horizon2020 proposals, including LT-Observatory and Parthenos, and a number of further proposals have been made or are in preparation. As soon as UK has joined CLARIN, we will be able to start to participate in these opportunities.

The rules for participation in Horizon2020 allow an ERIC to participate as a consortium member, on terms not available to most other types of participant. The ERIC can assign project work to individuals in universities and other bodies in member countries. This is already working well to significantly reduce the administrative overhead usually associated with forming a consortium involving all participating institutions as partners. Furthermore, as an European extra-national organization, CLARIN counts as an ‘extra country’ where the funding scheme rules prescribe that at least three different European countries are required.

CLARIN Centres Meeting Utrecht 28-29 May

CLARIN-PLUS will offer beginners’ workshops in various aspects of using and developing CLARIN services. If you are keen to dive in at the deep end now, there is a meeting for CLARIN Centres and those wishing to set up centres next month in Utrecht. Sessions include a webservices workshop, and a tutorial for those setting up a CLARIN centre. There is no CLARIN funding available for travel and subsistence, but there is no fee for participation. More details here.

Find out more about about CLARIN at

CLARIN for Beginners

Originally posted at on April 11, 2014 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

What is CLARIN?

CLARIN is a network of people, centres and research activities which support advanced digital research based on language data and tools. Formally, it is the Common Language Research Infrastructure, and it exists as a legal entity, a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, with a base in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but CLARIN is really built on important national initiatives in a growing number of countries across Europe. These are building up data centres, connecting resources together and with online tools, creating advisory and support services, and promoting research programmes which make use of them.

Who is CLARIN for?

It’s primarily for anyone interested in digital research in the humanities and social sciences who wants to make use of linguistic data and tools. We’re also very open to scholars from other disciplines, and interested in supporting the use of the infrastructure in teaching and by the general public. In fact, we’re pretty sure that there are lots of cool uses that this stuff could be put to which we haven’t even thought of yet. The funding comes from national and European sources to provide services across the EU, but we’re also keen to make international alliances, and to make as much as possible free for anyone to use. We know that research communities cross many boundaries, and we want to break down barriers, not build them.

What can CLARIN do for me?

It depends who you are and what you’re looking for. If you are a researcher, you could use CLARIN to find services or people to help you to use language resources and tools more effectively, or to ask new research questions. If you create language resources, you might like to deposit them with one of the CLARIN centres so that they can be curated by professionals, and then found and used by many more researchers. If you run a repository, think about registering as a CLARIN centre and making your resources discoverable and usable via CLARIN services like the Virtual Language Observatory, or the Federated Content Search. If you develop or work with language software, you might want to try to get it integrated into the CLARIN architecture.

What can I do for CLARIN?

That’s more like it. CLARIN needs people to build the tools, services and infrastructure that we need. We also need to hear from researchers what they want from the infrastructure. You could also let us know if CLARIN has helped you, so that we can tell our funders about that. If you are in a country which hasn’t joined CLARIN, such as the UK, ask the funding agencies and policymakers why not!

Why should I be interested?

Whatever you do, you probably write, read or otherwise manipulate language in your job, and some of the resources and tools in CLARIN might be useful for you. Want to see how particular words are usually used in English (or French or German or Estonian)? Need to identify the language of a text? Need to identify all of the people and places in a text? Want to get hold of an expert in Dutch dialects? CLARIN is building a one-stop shop for solutions to these sorts of questions. Furthermore, you might not be interested right now in language technology, but you might be interested in how we are trying out novel approaches to building a virtual infrastructure to support research in the humanities and social sciences. This involves cutting edge technologies for authorizing access to resources, expertise in digital curation, new ways to describe, find and share electronic resources online, overcoming legal, administrative and financial barriers to build cross-border infrastructure services, lobbying for more access rights to copyright material for research, and lots more. Visit regularly and watch the story unfold.

What has CLARIN actually achieved?

Here are a few examples: the Virtual Language Observatory, the Federated Content Search, a service provider federation allowing cross-border log-ins to resources, numerous training events (like this), research projects facilitating collaborations (like these) and really cool websites like this: website

What has it go to do with you, Martin?

I’m Director for User Involvement for CLARIN at the European level, on a 3-year part-time secondment 2013-2016, as well as having been one of the founders and architects back when it first started. So explaining what CLARIN is and encouraging people to get involved is part of my job. Get in touch if you want to know more.

CLARIN Germany: Happy First Birthday!

Originally posted at on July 10, 2012 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

A workshop was held in Leipzig last month to mark the end of the first year of CLARIN-D, the national initiative in Germany to build a research infrastructure as part of the Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure. The wider CLARIN effort is Europe-wide and aims to link up repositories, services and researchers in the social sciences and humanities who are making use of the wide range of digital datasets and tools for processing human language. More details of the workshop, including all of the presentations, are available here [update 2019 – previously linked to, no longer available].

Greg Crane, the newly appointed Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, kicked off the event with a stimulating presentation which situated CLARIN in the wider context of the evolution of the humanities and, more recently, the digital humanities. Greg suggested that we should provide platforms and tools for students and citizen scholars to contribute to research and to the accumulation of knowledge, culminating in the challenge: “How can we foster a new global Republic of Letters?”.

Erhard Hinrichs (Tübingen), the coordinator of CLARIN-D, introduced the overall initiative as a “web and centre-based research infrastructure for the social sciences and humanities”. CLARIN aims to build an integrated, interoperable, scalable and sustainable research infrastructure via a network of centres. Language resources and tools (LRTs) will be deployed as services for researchers in the social sciences and humanities. CLARIN-D has 9 centres: BAS, University of Munich; BBAW, Berlin; IDS, Mannheim; MPI, Nijmegen; University of Hamburg; University of Leipzig; Saarland University; University of Stuttgart; and University of Tübingen.

Erhard reassured us that CLARIN-D has taken to heart the words of John Wood from the Knowledge Exchange Workshop in Berlin in September 2009:

Research infrastructures that do not take user needs into account from the very start run the risk of becoming empty infrastructures.

There are working groups for 9 humanities and social science disciplines. These discipline-specific working groups act as catalysts, linking CLARIN-D to the research communities. They choose key resources and tools from their communities and advise and supervise their integration into the CLARIN-D infrastructure (in the so-called “curation projects”). CLARIN-D is also working with many of the BMBF-funded eHumanities projects. CLARIN-D also has work packages which are devoted to liaison with the CLARIN-ERIC and with DARIAH, an emerging humanities e-infrastructure, and also on legal and ethical issues, support and helpdesk, and training and education.

Dieter van Uytvanck (MPI Nijmegen) introduced the distributed technical architecture of CLARIN in the context of an infrastructure to support researchers throughout the life-cycle of their work. He also situated CLARIN in the context of a (European) ecosystem of infrastructures:

Community Services – CLARIN
Cross Community Services – DASISH
Compute Services – DEISA
Data Services – EUdat
Grid Services – EGI
Network Services – GEANT

Dieter outlined the services which are available now:

  • WebLicht for resource processing and workflow management;
  • the Virtual Language Observatory for resource discovery;
  • tools to support resource creation and enhancement;
  • European Persistent Identifier Consortium (EPIC) service;
  • repository services in the centres for archiving, preservation and sharing;
  • federated identity management (including a CLARIN Identity Provider, a service provider federation and cross-federation)

Services that will be available in the future include:

  • Federated Content Search (in development)
  • Monitoring (currently in alpha)
  • Center Registry (alpha)
  • Virtual Collection Registry (alpha)
  • Workspaces + SimpleStore (alpha)
  • Safe Replication (alpha)

The workshop then moved on to consider the various projects associated with CLARIN-D. Angelika Storrer (TU Dortmund) spoke about her experiences in corpus-based language analysis in research and teaching. The requirements which she identified were of particular interest:

  • One common interface with a German language version and German online tutorials
  • Tools to further work with the results of search queries (clean-up and search again; manually annotate and search again; interface to statistic tools)
  • Word sense disambiguation / semantic clustering tools
  • Orthographic variation tools: important issue when dealing with historical corpora or with computer-mediated communication, e.g. Stress / Streß

Annette Hautli (Konstanz) is part of a team is aiming to tackle the problem with an innovative combination of methods coming from three disciplines: Linguistics, Visual Analytics and Political Science. It is clear that the proposed process of automatic pragmatic annotations of naturally occurring speech data is ambitious, and it is not yet clear that effective results can be obtained. Furthermore, the data set used, which seemed to be transcripts of interviews carried out by the political scientists in the project, is not really the sort of “naturally occurring” speech events that the linguistic methods were developed to deal with, and the eradication of biases and formulation of appropriate interpretations of the data will be difficult. In this sense, it will be an interesting collaboration between the social sciences and other disciplines. On a technical note, it has been noted that a multi-layered annotation approach would be useful, although they don’t have the tools at present.

Eva-Maria Wunder (Augsburg) introduced her PhD work on searching for evidence of second-to-third language interference in language learners (e.g. if a Chinese speaker learns English and then German, how does this effect their German pronunciation?). While she didn’t address the methodological problem that looking for English influence in pronunciation is difficult when “English” is not one accent, this probably wasn’t the place for such discussions, and she introduced the CLARIN tools Wikispeech and WebMAUS which are supporting her work.

Kirsten Bergmann spoke about the challenges of integrating multimodal resources into the CLARIN infrastructure, such as the SaGa speech and gesture corpus, sign language materials, and “sociable machines” under development in Bielefeld.

Ingmar Schuster (Leipzig) described one of the curation projects, which aims to build a “reproducible research platform”, to support “reproducible data-driven linguistics”. The platform is a development of the Potsdam Mind Research Repository (PMR2), and incorporates pre-prints Open Journal Systems (including OAI-PMH, CMDI plug-in); author submission system (reducing the admin load of the centre supporting the system); data publication; “non-significant” (presumably negative) results; R integration, with a web application variant, since most researchers in this field use R.

Christian Mair (Freiburg) described the integration of the Virtual Linguistics Campus (VLC, a suite of online distance learning resources) into CLARIN. The aim is to create an accessible digital resource for a mass market, expanded by a large number of users (to build a web-based community of practice). This could evolve into a multi-functional digital language resource from an e-learning resource: from teaching through research-based teaching to research. There are ongoing issues of quality control, and as yet unexplored potential and obvious synergies with other CLARIN ventures, e.g. the integration of distributed corpora.

Thomas Gloning (Gieẞen) described another curation project, on the integration of German historical philological resources, ultimately aiming to integrate the textual resources of the 15th to the 19th centuries into a reference corpus of historical German, and including a workflow for future integration of further resources. Integrating various textual resources will not provide a corpus in a strict sense but rather a huge repository, from which users can use metadata to build up subcorpora from the repository, according to relevant criteria, e.g. text type (newspaper reports, plant descriptions), decade (texts from the 1680s), topic (texts on alchemy, cookery, medicine, etc.). Anticipated outcomes of making such a resource available include a new historical dictionary of New High German from the 17th-21st centuries based on corpus principles. Innumerable projects on more specific themes would also result, for example investigating the history of foreign words, emergence of specialized vocabulary, evidence of language change, etc., leading to new models and theories.

Alexander Geyken (BBAW) announced plans to write a user manual or handbook (Benutzerhandbuch) for CLARIN-D services. The target audience sectors will be:

  • researchers who have/want to develop Language Resources, Tools and Services (LRTS) and want to make them CLARIN-D compatible;
  • researchers who want to learn more about the solutions adopted in CLARIN-D;
  • technical staff supporting researchers in resource development and migration.

The manual will aid the migration LRTS to the CLARIN-D infrastructure, with the following benefits:

  • linking to larger community / visibility or resources;
  • interoperability;
  • long-term preservation by CLARIN-D service centres.

Among the challenges presented by the plan are the relations of this manual with the emerging standards and procedures of the CLARIN ERIC, which are intended to be Europe-wide in their application. Also, centres and research creation projects will need to make decisions at particular points in time regarding standards, which might be made difficult by the nature of the handbook as a “living document” with constant updates and changes. Nevertheless, this work should provide an excellent foundation for future work in documenting CLARIN procedures.

Frank Wiegand (BBAW) explained the project to build the Deutsches Textarchiv (DTA), which will identify and integrate distributed text resources into a large reference corpus for German (1650-1900). Some of the work to produce editions for the corpus is being done in

Thomas Eckart (Leipzig) reported on infrastructural and CLARIN-related aspects of the eAqua project which is working on the extraction of structured knowledge from ancient sources. The project aims to develop tools as small independent components available as services via SOAP and REST, to support the reuse of data and algorithms, and promote interaction and interchange with existing projects in Digital Humanities, and to allow the integration of existing data resources. They aim to use existing standards, and so plain text and TEI have been selected as input formats for the CLARIN workspace, and have built a TEI text integrator, which automatically sucks in texts to a repository, allocates a PID, generated CMDI metadata (which is then pushed to the Virtual Language Observatory aggregator), the full text will be offered to the CLARIN Federated Content Search, with output in TCF/txt/XML/HTML.

After the presentation of this impressive array of projects, Erhard Hinrichs returned to the stage to introduce the CLARIN ERIC, the new legal and organisational framework underpinning the Europe-wide CLARIN research infrastructure, and its relationship with CLARIN-D. In short, ERICs are reliant on national funding and national infrastructure initiatives. The challenges will be to integrate numerous national infrastructures of varying size, scope and maturity into a coherent European infrastructure. The CLARIN ERIC started operation in the Spring of 2012, with nine founding members – Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, The Netherlands, Nederlandse Taalunie (the Dutch Language Union, an international organization based in Flanders and the Netherlands), and Poland. Six additional members are expected by the end of 2012: Croatia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia.

Thomas Zastrow (Tübingen) introduced the EUDAT Data Project, which brings together a consortium of research communities and national data and high performance computing centers, aiming to contribute to the production of a collaborative data infrastructure (CDI) to support Europe’s scientific and research data requirements, and to deal with the “data tsunami” – note that no longer merely a deluge! As well as CLARIN, there are participants from Earth sciences (EPOS), Climate sciences (ENES), Environmental sciences (LIFEWATCH), and Biological and medical sciences (VPH).

Erik Ketzan and Pawel Kamocki (IDS, Mannheim) introduced the CLARIN-D legal helpdesk and “Three Important Legal Concepts for Language Scientists in Germany”.
The first two of these concepts represented encouraging news about the relatively liberal provisions of German law for personal scientific use and implied licences. However, we should note that services built on the these exceptions will pose problems for the CLARIN infrastructure, the boundaries of which are EU-wide (at least). It remains to be seen how we can deal with problems of identifying the relevant legal jurisdictions for complex workflows involving cross-national collaborations and distributed architectures. It might prove necessary to base services on the assumption of the lowest common denominator of EU-wide legal principles, rather than on those of the most liberal country. (By the way, the third concept was the potential landmine of database rights!)

In summary, it was extremely encouraging to see the plans of CLARIN, first conceived many years ago, start to come to fruition. The connections now being made in Germany with key communities of academic researchers is of paramount importance, and will need to be carried on in other countries. There were a few niggling doubts in this respect – it would have been good to find out more about connections with literary scholars, and with TextGrid and DARIAH. But overall, CLARIN-D shows a remarkable level of maturity, at both technical and organisational levels. There are numerous key challenges ahead, but this community seem well-equipped to address them. We have seen the future of language resources, tools and services, and it works!

CLARIN infrastructure notes – on the record

Originally posted at on September 13, 2011 by Martin Wynne. IT Services at the University of Oxford has decided to delete a large number of historical blogs, and this is one of a number of posts related to the Oxford Text Archive which are being re-published here, after being laboriously retrieved from the archive provided by the Wayback Machine.

In a recent informal meeting involving various members of the CLARIN and other infrastructure initiatives, we had an open, frank and “off the record” discussion about successes and failures so far, and plans for the future. In preparation for the meeting, and to get the discussions going, we were asked to think of five points in response to each of three questions. I’m happy to go “on the record” with mine here!

What were your original impulses and dreams [when CLARIN planning started around 2006]?

1. To build an Arts and Humanities Data Service for Europe, on the model of the AHDS in the UK, to support digital work in the literary and linguistic subject areas, and link with similar emerging initiatives then emerging, e.g. at the CNRS in France.

2. To promote and integrate Central and East European researchers, resources and languages, continuing the work of TELRI project in the previous period.

3. To build new European networks, built on transparency, openness and a real desire to engage with, support and improve research, to replace failed European initiatives which were sometimes built on careerism, croneyism and corruption.

4. To move the focus of language resource & tool creators (especially computational linguists) towards the requirements of Humanities researchers, making it easier for users with little technical support to do simple yet powerful things with key resources.

5. To facilitate the participation of literary and linguistic disciplines in the emerging e-Science agenda.

What are the most important successes and failures so far?

1. Success: the initiative is almost pan-European, although some key countries not involved or not fully integrated (UK, Italy), and a very few not involved at all (Ireland, Switzerland); the integration of former TELRI partners from central and eastern Europe was successfully achieved.

2. Success: we have succeeded in getting enough funding from national funders to make CLARIN happen!

3. Partial failure: we’ve only had fairly small-scale engagement so far of scholars to elecit detailed requirements and to develop use cases.

4. Partial failure: we haven’t made the total shift of focus of the CLARIN community away from traditional concerns (own tools and research) to production infrastructure services for the humanities and social sciences.

5. Partial failure: we have not yet created a standards-oriented ecosystem for resource and tool creators to enable them to contribute to sustainable production services. To put it another way No answer to “How do make CLARIN-conformant resources?” I hope that the forthcoming Reference Manual will at least partially solve this problem.

What are the top priorities for future work?

1. We need to work out ways to lobby for and secure funding, in a situation where, in the Humanities, there is a lack of a critical mass of researchers (in any given discipline) who want research computing infrastructure, or who see it as a top priority. This means that here is a lack of an effective lobby group of influential scholars in most forums. This is one of the disadvantages of the cross-disciplinary nature of linguistics and the language resources and tools field.

2. We need to deliver something urgently to show the relevant communities that we can do it, and to give them a clearer idea of what he intend to do. Access and authentication infrastructure (AAI) is the key to delivering any kind of production service which can show and end-to-end use case, so we should make solutions in this area a logical priority.

3. Where is the data processing going to take place, who is going to pay for it, and how will we do the accounting? We urgently need to make progress towards solutions here as well if we are to create production-quality services.

4. Humanities and social sciences research has global connections. How will we accommodate users and service providers outside of our AAI domain? As CLARIN starts to rely on national funding, there is an increased danger of two-speed progress, with some countries and communities who are currently engaged being pushed out.

5. What will the platforms for users, and who is going to make the user interfaces? Are we going to be able to overcome fragmentation and ‘silo-building’ – can we offer a good user experience while still allowing flexibility and connectiveness? If so, how, and when?

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