A Common Language for what we do and what we build

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26 Jan 2021

A Common Language for what we do and what we build

Submitted by Mark Parsons

Meeting objectives: 

Terminology has been a core issue of RDA since its inception. Meanwhile, terminology and conceptual thinking around research data management continue to evolve. High-level terms like ‘science cloud’, ‘data ecosystem’, and ‘open data commons’ were rarely used in 2013 but are commonly used today at high levels of government and industry. Yet, it is not clear that we are always talking about the same thing, even when we are using the same word. 

Formal semantics have continued to evolve and there is increasing agreement on detailed ontologies and related tools that help machines communicate, but the common language used by system operators, policy makers, and the general research community is much less coherent in its approach. Many governments, agencies, and institutions are developing ‘open science clouds’ or ‘research data commons’, but it is not clear that they mean the same thing. At the same time, even reasonably well-defined terms, like those embodied in the FAIR principles or the OAIS Reference Model, are often interpreted differently in different contexts. 

Other examples of contested terms include: Open Commons, Data Commons, Open Cloud, Repository, Data Center, Virtual Research Environment, Science Gateway, Virtual Laboratories, Open Science, Open Data, Open Source, eResearch, cyberinfrastructure…

In this BoF, we seek to survey the landscape of efforts that are attempting to define or interconnect  high-level, research-data-management terminology. We will then discuss if RDA could play a role in harmonizing or interconnecting some of these terminologies while still recognizing that definitions are specific to a context.

We welcome contributions that discuss efforts in this area. If you are interested in presenting at this session, please contact the organizers.

Meeting objectives:

- Survey the landscape of efforts that are attempting to define or interconnect  high-level research data management terminology

- Determine if RDA could play a role in harmonizing or interconnecting some of these terminologies while recognizing that definitions are specific to a context.

Meeting agenda: 

Colllaborative session notes (main session): https://docs.google.com/document/d/17LnJZS-HWHD2xbGUrRfekb_wBSep2wMA63afIoGWqYM/edit   

Colllaborative session notes (repeat session): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sI31_ncyUokuMgp7vVtM8Xtm-22aAU3m1Ym7QPykE9k/edit?usp=sharing 

  • Welcome  (5 min)

  • Meeting Objectives (10 min)

  • Presentations of similar work or challenges (30-40 min)

    • See speakers above

  • Scoping Exercise & Discussion (30-40 min)

  • Next Steps (5 min)

Type of Meeting: 
Working meeting
Short introduction describing any previous activities: 

This will be the first meeting of this BoF, however, RDA has been concerned with terminology since its inception. Previous Working Groups and Interest Groups that have addressed similar topics include:

  • Data Foundations and Terminology WG: Group output included a basic core model of related terms along with some basic principles that harmonize the data organization solutions - relevant to this BoF is the Snapshot of DFT Core Terms, online at https://rd-alliance.org/system/files/DFT3%20-%20Snapshot%20of%20core%20terms.pdf

  • Data Foundations and Terminology IG: Continue the discussion evoked by the RDA DFT WG to support continuing RDA efforts regarding basic data concepts & framework models along with their vocabularies.

  • Vocabulary Services IG: The Vocabulary Service IG addresses the needs of research communities for using controlled vocabularies published on the web. 

  • InteroperAble Descriptions of Observable Property Terminology (I-ADOPT) WG: Focuses on creating a community-agreed framework for representing observable properties by bringing together groups that have been working on developing terminologies to accurately encode what was measured, observed, derived, or computed.


In addition, there are activities outside of RDA working to define RDM-related terms, including some existing glossaries:

BoF chair serving as contact person: 
Meeting presenters: 
Raphael Ritz -- RDA Data Foundational Terminology; Simon Hodson -- CODATA/CASRAI Glossary; Laura Molloy -- Terms4FAIRskills; Rowan Brownlee (invited) -- ARDC efforts; Mark Parsons -- NASA effort to harmonize RDM terms across all science divisions
Avoid conflict with the following group (1): 
Avoid conflict with the following group (2): 
Contact for group (email):