Digital University aims to enhance the information assets of the University of Trento through the adoption of data management strategies that ensure their quality and encourage their reuse. This makes it possible for the University to provide multiple digital services to a wide range of users (teaching and research staff, students, governing bodies, alumni, and others) while increasing its efficiency and transparency.
Digital University started in January 2015 as a research and innovation project co-funded by the University of Trento and CINECA. It takes inspiration from the topics explored in Smart Society (2013-2016), a European research project coordinated by the University of Trento, among which were: the university as a hybrid society of people and technological artifacts, profiling based on skills, identification of appropriate incentives, tracing data sources, ethical aspects of good governance including, in particular, the protection of personal data.
Data processing and storage
The data obtained from multiple data sources are processed, stored and managed by a system called Knowledge HUB, which aggregates and correlates the data extracted from different information systems. By aggregation we mean the process of migration (copying and indexing) of the data in a single database according to a new single format. By correlation we mean the process that makes it possible to link the data concerning the same object, which was initially stored in different archives. With this technology, for example, faculty members can be associated to data on their publications, courses and projects retrieved from the various sources.
The data is thus initially organized in a knowledge graph. The nodes in the graph are the various managed objects (individuals, publications, courses, projects, places) and the arcs represent the relationships between them (author, professor, coordinator). The infographic below shows how information is extracted from raw data sources and then refined and automatically organized in a knowledge graph. The knowledge graph information is re-used by the various services.
Knowledge graphs are behind the success of systems such as the search engine of Google and Facebook. The data is then extracted by the Knowledge HUB to build indexes (called spokes) which are efficiently queried by special APIs that allow the individual services to be provided.
From a technological point of view, the platform benefited from the methodologies and tools developed by the KnowDive research group of the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science of the University. In terms of innovation, data processing took two days with the first version of the platform, whereas in 2021 we achieved a completely renewed version capable of processing all the data (construction of the graph) and generating the indices in just 6 minutes.
The services provided by Digital University at UniTrento
Digital University: a detailed directory that contains information on the members of the University of Trento and its departments and centers. Members include academic staff (professors, researchers, PhD students), administrative and technical staff, and university executives. As regards people, the service provides contact details (email addresses, phone numbers, addresses), CVs, list of publications, information on courses, theses, projects. The service also gives an overview and general information on the University's departments and centers, its governing bodies and administrative structure.
University dashboard: this is a monitoring tool that helps decision makers with statistics and graphs that are useful to University governance to examine trends, strengths, and points of improvement.
Open Data: the University complies with national guidelines on the sharing of public information and therefore makes its most important data available to the public. University data can be found on the Provincial catalogue of Open Data, which adheres to the relevant European and national standards.
The working group
The group that developed the project included Alessandro Ercolani, Eyueal Haile, Juan Laconich and Teresio Poggio and was coordinated by Vincenzo Maltese.
The Information Systems Directorate (Andrea Mongera, Michele Bortolotti, Mauro Ferrari, Maurizio Festi, Mauro Filippi, Filippo Moser, Elena Rizzi, Luca Zancanella, Stefano Zanelli), the Directorate of Research and University Library System (Vanessa Ravagni, Francesca Valentini) and the General Management (Vania Bellamoli, Paola Bonadiman, Daniela Costantini, Paola Fusi, Manuela Galuppo, Marco Prest, Miriam Sebastiani) collaborated with the project team.
The project also had a University committee with members appointed by the different departments and centers (Renato Lo Cigno, Diego Ponte, Leonardo Ricci, Umberto Izzo, Bruno Majone, Vincenzo D'Andrea, Andrea Del Prete, Jorge Canals Piñas, Roberto Zunino, Andrea Rossato, Ivano Bison, Paola Capuana, Michele Perazzolli, Nicola Segata, Roberto Zamparelli, Stefano Benati, Emanuele Curzel, Riccardo Rigon, Gian Franco Dalla Betta, Duccio Rocchini).
The system was developed based on a privacy-by-design approach, i.e. considering privacy as a fundamental requirement right from the start. Information is managed in a way that ensures the protection of personal data and intellectual property rights. The applications have been developed to comply with the requirements for information systems data.
For more information, read the information available for each of the services offered.