ResearchSpace Community Membership

Kartography CIC

Dec 2023


The ResearchSpace platform is an open source system funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. It provides a flexible and contextualising environment supporting and connecting qualitative and quantitative processes and humanities research using a methodology suited to historical data narratives and analysis. The platform was developed with an investment of over £4 million from the Foundation, fulfilling all of Mellon's objectives for a semantic and collaborative digital platform. It has involved leading experts in humanities scholarship and Semantic Web technology. This investment needs to be protected so that the full potential of ResearchSpace can be used to address the quality of digital projects and heritage processes. Kartography CIC has been created to do this and is founded as a social enterprise non-profit organisation with a formal charter for promoting diversity and inclusion in data.  

This document outlines the membership scheme to support these objectives, protecting the platform for the community, and actively helping organisations address context and diversity in their digital work. Instead of licensing fees and restrictive support contracts, Kartography provides a flexible environment with specific benefits to the ResearchSpace community through an open and transparent membership model. Organisations are familiar with this model through other professional membership groups who provide similar supporting services and protect the interests of members by Kartography being actively involved in the community themselves. Many organisations are grappling with legacy data repositories that contain inappropriate forms of data - a fundamental problem across many sectors. The ResearchSpace system provides a progressive interdisciplinary approach that can address these problems and more generally supports principles of contextualisation applying them to the humanities. A background to the ResearchSpace system is contained at annex 1.

Background - Comparison with licensing and support model  

Previous commercial models for ResearchSpace software involved

  1. Commercial software with licensing cost.
  2. Free proprietary software but with no open source community development model.
  3. Lack of documentation, training and dissemination of information.
  4. Lack of expertise in cultural heritage and humanities modelling and methodology.    
  5. High daily consultancy rates.
  6. Lack of understanding of the ResearchSpace design vision conceived by the Mellon Foundation and the British Museum.

This approach failed because it attempted to impose a static proprietary model, commonly used in locked down IT environments, onto a system which was designed for flexibility and cooperation. The model impeded the design vision and provided lack of value.

Membership Benefits

Kartography works for the community members generally managing different aspects of the ResearchSpace platform necessary to maintain and progress it, including development work; responding to reported issues; and generally providing education about the system and the processes that it addresses. This in itself is a significant undertaking. The membership system underlines Kartography’s own commitment to the humanities community and provides the basis for a close relationship with members based on a common interest in cultural and social history. Additionally the following specific membership benefits are provided to members. These provide better value for money to community members and are wider than a simple support contract. The standard organisational membership fee is £16,000 with discounts for small organisations and some specific projects.  



Practice Library Access

Making the best use of ResearchSpace requires information about how it works and its various components. Members will be able to access information containing additional details about the ResearchSpace platform, methods, techniques and components. This working library will include practical information and examples. These will be abstracted from Kartography’s own development work as well as bringing together information collected from community activities. Members will have a login and password to access.  

The library will also contain information about the original design specifications created by the ResearchSpace project and provide insight into the design process.  

Objective: Members have immediate access to information beyond standard manuals allowing them to make more effective use of the system.


This knowledge will be organised into its own knowledge base creating a semantic network of related knowledge  


The library will be available in March 2024 and continue to grow from that point onwards.  

Priority Support for platform issues

Members will receive prioritised attention to bugs they report. Issues reported by members will be regularly filtered from the wider list of recorded issues and will be assessed with actions prioritised over non-member issues of the same impact level.

Objective: To help support and protect member’s formal projects and their delivery.  

Action & Timeline :  

Current Git reporting will continue with a reorganisation planned for February 2024.  


Priority Pull Request Review

ResearchSpace will prioritise the review, testing and communication of new pull requests from members and will directly communicate on planning for these requests.

Objective: Ensure ongoing developments are incorporated and shared in the community.

Action:  A documented process for submission, testing and review will be available February 2024

Additional: Members will undertake to document what components they are working on in advance and work with Kartography to ensure quality of pull request.  

Modelling Support

Members can ask specific discrete questions about approaches to specific modelling issues with CIDOC CRM and their implementation within ResearchSpace.

Note: Kartography can be commissioned to work with, and help build models, which address the needs of researchers. The system assumes modelling against research processes (practice) rather than traditional IT functional approaches.    

Action: This will be available immediately on subscription. A process will be documented for January 2024

Consultancy and Data Diversity

Members can get initial free consultancy on the planning of new work, providing the benefit of Kartography’s extensive knowledge of ResearchSpace, cultural heritage processes and disciplinary methodology. This has two objectives. Firstly, to provide advice on how ResearchSpace can address and improve contextualization, and within this advice on data diversity issues. Secondly, to provide direction intended to help create an effective system.  

Objective: Help projects address data diversity and make effective use of resources.  

Note: Kartography can be commissioned to work with and help build models which address the needs of researchers. The system assumes modelling against research processes (practice) rather than traditional IT functional approaches.    

Action: This will be available immediately on subscription. A process will be documented for January 2024

Discounted Consultancy

Members will receive an additional 10% discount on consultancy up to 10 days.


Available immediately on subscription

Discounted Workshops

Kartography workshops will be available to members at a 50% discount.  


These will be planned and advertised on an ongoing basis.  

Promote the Work of Community Members

Highlighting work that uses ResearchSpace by members

Annex 1 -  Principles of ResearchSpace

ResearchSpace was conceived by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It originated from their experience of previous funded projects, but also the general experience of their team, particularly Ken Hamma, previously executive director of Digital Policy and Initiatives at the J. Paul Getty Trust. Through the funding of previous digital projects in the humanities they identified significant limitations with data oriented projects. While they produced, in the main, digital jukeboxes they didn't address ongoing scholarly processes, meaningful qualitative research, reuse and integration.

In a letter to National Museums in London they initiated what would become the ResearchSpace project, the Mellon Foundation said this;  

“the Foundation‘s recommendation is that the projects choose RDF, an approach that maximizes the chances that scholars will be able to pursue their research in whatever new directions may emerge. RDF “triple stores”—the equivalents of relational databases for RDF data—impose no strict requirements on data models and permit models to be revised and even replaced with minimal effort, a set of features well‐suited to the open‐ended nature of scholarly research.”  

Proposal for a Shared Technology Infrastructure August 25, 2009

ResearchSpace provides this, but much more. Research mandates that a ‘research system’, which in this perspective includes new types of organisational information systems, should be able to follow the different paths and changes flowing from new knowledge. However, IT models assume that support is based on a carefully controlled application. Traditional IT mindsets are determined by predictability and an absence of variation from installation to installation. This is also related to the fact that the standard database systems lock semantics and logic in software code rather than in the data which is abstract. In the Mellon blueprint the data model can expand and change and be revised without a fundamental effect on the software. That doesn’t mean that changes are not required but these changes are less about underlying code and more about reconfiguring how new models are exposed. Ultimately more control is given to the researchers (and practitioner-researchers) and this requires a different model of community support. In knowledge systems variability creates effectiveness and efficiency.  

The Mellon’s letter referred to a “shared infrastructure”, which should;

  1. be relevant for any research project and expandable into any subject areas,
  2. generate high quality research information reflecting research questions, wider context, and removing the reductionism inherent in previous database systems. It would support complex interpretations but could also be meaningfully shared, reused and expanded by any other project. Moreover its semantic orientation would also be relevant to a wide range of audiences,
  3. allow projects to maintain their individuality and focus on their own research questions,
  4. allow data and data models to be extended, revised and replaced with ease.

The system was entrusted to the British Museum consisting of initial research into how existing principles of scholarly could be transferred to a digital environment and enhance many areas particularly related to representing complexity and support vertical and horizontal cooperative working. After initial research into modelling and methodology a working prototype was produced to ensure that the objectives set by the Foundation could in fact be fulfilled. The working prototype did this but also highlighted issues. With an understanding of the issues a production system was developed addressing the findings of the research and producing ResearchSpace system - a continually evolving knowledge base system using the flexibility of Linked Data but transforming digital from a simple jukebox to a system that adhered to the principles of scholarly modelling which underpins all scholarly work.

Kartography CIC is a not for profit social enterprise company created to undertake a handover of the ResearchSpace project from the British Museum and provide a dedicated home for the system in accordance with the Mellon Foundation’s wishes. Kartography was incorporated in March 2021 initially supporting the deployment of ResearchSpace in The National Archives UK, TNA, establishing a partnership which has involved continual development and collaboration both in terms of the platform, but equally strategy and methodology. Kartography CIC now undertakes a wide range of work and its directors represent decades of cultural heritage experience including the design of the ResearchSpace system itself. (

ResearchSpace is a system developed by drawing upon extensive research into humanities based methodologies and an interdisciplinary approach. Its fundamental design objectives include a flexible semantic environment in which to represent contextualised knowledge. ResearchSpace is open source and intended for cooperative and collaborative knowledge building. It approaches all knowledge based work as research incorporating the idea of practitioner-researcher, and knowledge from practice. It was also designed using principles taken from the design of the CIDOC CRM.  

December 2023[1]

[1] *  Kartography will analyse and review the membership system on an annual basis