Extracting relations between people and events

BiographyNet is a multidisciplinary project that combines expertise from history, computer science and computational linguistics. The project is a collaboration between the Netherlands eScience Center, Huygens ING and VU University Amsterdam.

Check out our video presentation
  • Creating a semantic knowledge base out of relations between people and historic events

    Creating a semantic knowledge base out of relations between people and historic events

  • BiographyNet is a partnership between eScience Center, Huygens ING and VU University

    BiographyNet is a partnership between eScience Center, Huygens ING and VU University



BiographyNet uses data from the Biography Portal of the Netherlands (BP), which contains approximately 125,000 biographies from a variety of Dutch biographical dictionaries.
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An interlinked semantic knowledge base will be created by extracting relations between people, places, historic events and time periods from biographical descriptions.
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Through a combination of data enrichment, visualization and browsing techniques, BiographyNet wants to inspire historians to set up new research projects.
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The aim of BiographyNet is to develop a demonstrator which supports the discovery of interrelations between people, events, places and time periods in biographical descriptions.
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Niels’ paper awarded first Bob Wielinga award at EKAW

Niels Ockeloen’s paper on Data2Documents was awarded the first Bob Wielinga memorial award for best research paper at the 20th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW2016). “Data 2 Documents: Modular and distributive content management in RDF” was authored by Niels Ockeloen, Victor de Boer, Tobias Kuhn and Guus Schreiber from the Web and Media group.. The paper describes Niels’ PhD. work on a method for creating human readable web documents out of machine readable Linked Data, focussing on modularity and re-use. You can view the slides for Niels’ presentation slides here.

Niels wins Best Paper Award

The award is named after Prof. Bob Wielinga, one of the most prominent European scientists in the area of knowledge-based systems, best known for his work on the KADS methodology, who has been one of the key influences on the development of the area in the past three decades. Bob was both my own and Guus Schreiber’s promotor so this makes it extra-special for us. In 2009 he was also appointed at our department, where he continued supervising PhD students until he passed away earlier this year. It is especially nice that the award, which was named after Bob Wielinga goes to work that is not only authored by people from Amsterdam but also work that Bob at some point discussed with Niels in the Basket, before his passing.

Proceedings of BD2015 now available

We’re happy to announce that the Proceedings of the first conference on Biographical Data in a Digital World are now available:

Proceedings BD2015

Time will tell a different story presents at DHB 2015 and Network Institute annual event

The BiographyNet related Academy Assistants project “Time will tell a different story” held several presentations the past month.

Historic research has gone through significant changes over time, in an effort to produce the most objective presentations of the past. Facts may remain the same, but perspectives in the way historians describe people and events change. The angle of analysis evolves hand in hand with the change of time, society and public opinion. This project investigates how these changes can be traced in historic text.

Miel Groten en Yassine Karimi, the two Academy Assistants running the project (supervised by Antske Fokkens and Serge ter Braake) presented their findings on the DH Benelux 2015 conference for Digital Humanities. The conference was held on the 8th and 9th of june 2015, hosted by the University of Antwerp.


Groten and Karimi were also present at the Network Institute’s End of Academic Year Event, where they presented their poster and pitched their project. The event took place in the Kerkzaal on the top floor of the VU University main building and featured an exciting program including talks by Johan Hoorn on ‘Alice the care robot’ and Evert Haasdijk on ‘Self-replicating robots’.


Klick here to view the presentation given in Antwerp, and here to view the poster.

BiographyNet video presentation

We have created a video presentation that provides an overview of the BiographyNet project so far. The video is available on YouTube, and can be found here.

Biographies in a Digital World: Amsterdam 9 April 2015

The BiographyNet team is co-organizing a conference on the theme of biographies in a digital world on 9 April 2015.  Program and registration details will follow soon here.


BiographyNet is looking for two Network Institute Academy Assistants (Computational Linguistics/Computer Science & History)

The BiographyNet team is looking for two academy assistants for the project Time will tell a different story. Mining perspectives in historical texts with the help of NLP.

We are looking for a master student computational linguistics or computer science and a master student history, to combine their expertise in NLP and historiography within the BiographyNet framework. The project aims to detect shifts in the way people and events are described over time. It is an opportunity for getting experience with interdisciplinary research and possibly expanding the research into a master thesis.

The historian for this project should at least be interested in digital humanities research, historiography and collaborating with a fellow student from another Faculty.

The linguist or computer scientist should either have a strong background in linguistics and affinity with computational methods (programming skills are a plus) or have a background in computer science and an interest in Natural Language Processing. He or she should be interested in collaborating with a fellow student from another Faculty.

Academy Assistants will be appointed for a period of 10 months, between 1 October 2014 and 1 August 2015 for one day a week (0,2 FTE). During this period they should be master students at the VU University.

See for more information the research proposal and the website of the Network Institute
or contact Antske Fokkens (a.s.fokkens@vu.nl) (computational linguistics) or Serge ter Braake (s.ter.braake@vu.nl) (history)

Please send a short cover letter and a CV before 15 August to Antske Fokkens and Serge ter Braake. Interviews will take place in the second half of August.

Workshop Geschiedenis en Digitale Historische Tekstanalyse – 4 April 2014, Vrije Universiteit

Workshop Geschiedenis en Digitale Historische Tekstanalyse – 4 April 2014,  Vrije Universiteit

De laatste jaren is er veel aandacht voor de mogelijkheden van ‘Digital Humanities’, of ‘e-Humanities’, voor historisch onderzoek.  Bij Digital Humanities projecten is er vrijwel altijd sprake van een nauwe samenwerking tussen experts van de geesteswetenschappen en de bètawetenschappen. Een cruciaal onderdeel van een dergelijke interdisciplinaire samenwerking is het leren van elkaars taal en onderzoeksmethoden.

Aan de VU loopt sinds 2012 het Digital Humanities project BiographyNet, dat zich richt op het ontwikkelen van een tool voor het analyseren van de biografieën in het Biografisch Portaal van Nederland (http://www.biografischportaal.nl ), waarin biografische woordenboeken van de achttiende tot de eenentwintigste eeuw zijn opgenomen. Er kan een rijke variëteit aan historische vragen gesteld worden aan het Portaal, met betrekking tot bijvoorbeeld prosopografisch onderzoek (wat kun je zeggen over de carrières van de gouverneurs-generaal van Nederlands-Indië?), historiografische kwesties (hoe werden gouverneurs-generaal in de loop der tijd beoordeeld?) en thematische onderwerpen (welke personen speelden een belangrijke rol in de koffiehandel?). Voor een vruchtbare analyse met behulp van digital humanities technieken is het echter ook zaak om dergelijke vragen te vertalen naar voor de computer herkenbare elementen. In deze workshop hopen wij op een uitwisseling van ideeën die ons verder helpt bij het ontwikkelen van de BiographyNet tools en die de deelnemers een goed beeld geeft van de mogelijkheden van digitale historische tekstanalyse. Na een introductie worden de deelnemers gevraagd om in groepjes met behulp van het Biografisch Portaal eerst een eenvoudige en vervolgens een moeilijke historische vraag te benaderen. Welke informatie kan en moet het Biografisch Portaal leveren? Wat zijn de beperkingen? Hoe kunnen historische vragen vertaald en opgedeeld worden in bouwstenen die te analyseren zijn met behulp van technieken uit de digital humanities?



13:00 – 13:15: Inloop

13:15 – 14:00: Introductie Antske Fokkens (computationale linguïstiek) en Serge ter Braake (geschiedenis) + vragen

14:00 – 14:45: Werkgroep sessie 1 (eenvoudige vraag)

14:45 – 15:15: Pauze

15:15 – 16:00: Werkgroep sessie 2 (moeilijke vraag)

16:00 – 16:30: Uitkomsten en discussie

16:30 -17:00:  Borrel

Aanmelding tot en met zondag 31 maart via deze link. De exacte locatie wordt nader bekend gemaakt. Mocht je van tevoren graag een bepaalde onderzoeksvraag behandeld zien die (deels) te beantwoorden is met behulp van het Biografisch Portaal laat het dan weten aan een van de organisatoren.


Hopelijk tot 4 april,

Antske Fokkens (a.s.fokkens@vu.nl)
Serge ter Braake (s.ter.braake@vu.nl)


Blogs on Interdisciplinary Collaboration and labeling the Digital Humanities

Recently BiographyNet historian Serge ter Braake wrote two digital humanities blogs:

blog on interdisciplanry collaboration, based on BiographyNet experiences.

A blog on the use of the terms ‘Digital Humanities’ and ‘E-Humanities’.




Piek Vossen + team win EYR4 Challenge

Piek Vossen and his team are among the winners of the Enlighten Your Research Challenge 2013. The winning proposal is called: “Recording History in Large News Streams”.

A Summary of the proposal:

“Every day thousands of news articles are published, presenting new events or providing updates to events reported earlier. With current technology it is impossible to keep track of the vast amount of information coming in daily. The purpose of this project is to develop the optimal architecture capable of processing as many daily news items as fast as possible, utilizing the most advanced semantic processing techniques available in Natural Language Processing (NLP) today. One of the main challenges in this project lies in scaling up existing linguistic processing to maximize the usage of available computational resources in order to manage the daily stream of incoming information. The resulting infrastructure will provide the basis to build a ‘history recorder’ that follows the news, stores it and can automatically relate new events to events that took place in the past. It will provide the complete story line to decision makers, pointing out forgotten details and possibly even finding new links between current situations and historic events.”


BiographyNet paper accepted for Linked Science (LISC) @ ISWC 2013

Our paper ‘BiographyNet: Managing Provenance at multiple levels and from different perspectives’ (Niels Ockeloen, Antske Fokkens, Serge ter Braake, Piek Vossen, Victor de Boer, Guus Schreiber, and Susan Legêne) has been accepted for the Linked Science workshop at the ISWC 2013 conference in Sydney. The paper is to be published in the proceedings of the workshop. Below you can find the abstract of the paper.

Abstract. The BiographyNet project aims at inspiring historians when setting up new research projects. The goal is to create a semantic knowledge base by extracting links between people, historic events, places and time periods from a variety of Dutch biographical dictionaries. A demonstrator will be developed providing visualization and browsing techniques for the knowledge base. In order to establish its credibility as a serious research tool, keeping track of provenance information is crucial. This paper describes a schema that models provenance from different perspectives and at multiple levels within BiographyNet. We will present a concrete model for the BiographyNet demonstrator that uses elements from the Europeana Data Model, PROV-DM and P-PLAN.