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Thing 19: Exploring APIs and Apps

APIs and Apps are the engines behind making data usable. Find out what they are and how they make data accessible to us all. Get hands on to explore and use APIs relevant to research data including services offered by ANDS and the National Library of Australia.

  • Getting started: try some Culture Collage and get some apps to become a citizen scientist
  • Learn more: Explore the API treasures of Trove
  • Challenge me: play with some APIs for ANDS services

Getting startedLearn moreChallenge me


Getting started

Thing 19: Exploring APIs and Apps

Apps and APIs are tools which make data much more discoverable and usable for all of us - not just researchers!  You can choose to explore both APIs and APPs or just one.

Option 1: How are APIs used with data?

APIs are important for research data because they are used by developers to cleverly make data more discoverable and re-usable eg the Google Maps API is very widely used to record the exact location of a species, or photograph and lets developers embed Google Maps on webpages.

1. Start by watching this easy, short (3.24 min) video, ‘What is an API?

2. Metadata records often show at least 2 different APIs in action. Interview material from Western Sydney women's oral history project: 'From farms to freeways: Women's memories of Western Sydney' metadata record shows both:

  • Google Maps API for the area map (zoom in to see the exact location where the data was collected)
  • Views and Accesses API

3. Trove at the National Library of Australia uses APIs to showcase National Library of Australia collections in amazing ways. Check out the Trove Applications Galley to see some clever uses of Trove APIs.

Just for fun: Stay in the Trove Applications Galley to find out what was making news today in history?

Click on Culture Collage icon Trove-Culture Collage >> then click on the On this day Trove On this day API icon !

Option 2: Apps for researchers and citizen scientists (is that you?)

Often several little APIs underpin a (software) App(lication) (program).  Data gatherers in the field use apps to make data collection easier, more accurate and more rich. eg fill out data forms offline on their smartphones and tablets, capture images, photos, videos and sounds, track locations on maps (probably using the Google Map API), and much more. They're flexible tools that can help researchers gather more information and work faster.

Choose one or both of these links to explore:

Consider: most of us have used public transport apps and APIs - think about the source of the data which enables real time transport information to be presented to you via an easy to read App and/or API.

Do you have a question?  Want to share a resource?


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Learn more

Thing 19: Exploring APIs and Apps

Get hands on with APIs and Queries.  Trove is a free discovery service provided by the National Library of Australia. It provides access to millions of Australian resources including newspaper articles, images and manuscripts. The Trove API enables people to create new applications, tools  and  interfaces using the rich store of Trove data.

1. Start by browsing around the Trove Application Gallery for some of the creative ways people have used the Trove API. Be inspired!

2. To see more of the power of one API, watch this short video (3:09 min). The screen is a bit fuzzy but you can get the idea of this innovative “use your voice to query Trove” API.

Share your thoughts on how APIs could make data more exciting and accessible for more people.

If you have time to get hands on!

3. Browse the introduction to the Trove API.

4. Go the Trove API Console and click on some of the example searches provided. The results are in a machine readable format but look closely and you can see the citation details eg title, date, source, pagination

4. Try constructing your own API query to see what results you get.  Note that: If you want to use them in your own code you'll need to get an API key and add '&key=[Your API key]' to the url.

Consider: the success of your code query - how could you get different results by varying the query?

Do you have a question?  Want to share a resource?


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Challenge me

Thing 19: Exploring APIs and Apps

APIs and Apps are the transformation agents which make data and services powerful and accessible. These 2 options give you a chance to see how APIs can be applied to either data or services.

Option 1: Hands-on API tutorials
Are you new to APIs and want a hands-on introduction to commonly used APIs, including Twitter and YouTube? Choose 1 API from the Code Academy APIs page and work through the online tutorial to learn more about the API you chose.

Consider: how the APIs could be applied to a dataset to make it more re-usable?

Option 2: APIs for ANDS Services
If your institution uses ANDS services, you might want to use one or more of these APIs to enhance your services.

Explore one of these APIs to get a feel for what the API does and whether it may be useful to your organisation:

  • OAI PMH Provider: Use this API if your system is a harvester which is compatible with the OAI-PMH protocol
  • Research Activity Grants API: provides machine access to research activity information contributed to Research Data Australia such as grants and projects. A light-weight method to query the ANDS Registry for specific information about Research Activity.

Consider: how these APIs could be applied to our repository.

Do you have a question?  Want to share a resource?


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in 23 (research data) Things