• Output Type: Working Group Recommendation
  • Review Status: Endorsed
  • Review Deadline: 2022-03-03
  • Author(s): Barbara Magagna
  • Abstract

    InteroperAble Descriptions of Observable Property Terminology (I-ADOPT) WG

    Group co-chairs: Barbara MagagnaAnusuriya DevarajuGwenaëlle MoncoifféMaria Stoica

    Recommendation: InteroperAble Descriptions of Observable Property Terminologies (I-ADOPT) WG Outputs and Recommendations

    Authors: Barbara Magagna; Gwenaëlle Moncoiffé; Anusuriya Devaraju; Maria Stoica; Sirko Schindler; Alison Pamment; Environment Agency Austria, Austria/University of Twente, NL; National Oceanography Centre/British Oceanographic Data Centre, UK; Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), University of Queensland, Australia; University of Colorado, Boulder, USA; Institute of Data Science, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany; National Centre for Atmospheric Science/UKRI, UK.


    By proposing a common way of decomposing variable descriptions according to a systematic approach that clearly identifies essential atomic components of these variables (for example the property measured, the chemical substance targeted, the medium in which the observation was made), the I-ADOPT Interoperability Framework addresses not only the I (interoperability) of the FAIR data principles but it will also benefit both the Findability and Reusability of data. The output from the I-ADOPT WG will help research communities by enabling domain scientists, ontology engineers, data providers, data curators to create and reuse complex unambiguous variable descriptions in a machine and human readable format. Well defined variables make data easier to find and reuse. Users and developers of software that are needed to create, search, manipulate, aggregate, and publish data will thus be able to design and build tools based on this common framework, facilitating the design process, fostering collaboration and improving the user experience. When broadly adopted, the I-ADOPT Framework and Recommendations will improve the efficiency and the specificity of cross-catalogue federated searches. It will also facilitate the automation or semi-automation of data workflows and enable faster, more reliable and more reproducible data aggregation steps. In addition, the components of the I-ADOPT Framework could be used by data curators to standardise the ‘mandatory’ metadata elements that should be submitted by data authors in order to identify the variables held in datasets.

    The publication of the I-ADOPT Interoperability Framework and the terminology catalogue via GitHub permits community engagement and means to continue building on this initial work.

    Recommendation package DOI: 10.15497/RDA00071

    Citation: Magagna, B., Moncoiffé, G., Devaraju, A., Stoica, M., Schindler, S., Pamment, A., Environment Agency Austria, Austria/University of Twente, NL, National Oceanography Centre/British Oceanographic Data Centre, UK, Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), University of Queensland, Australia, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, Institute of Data Science, German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Germany, & National Centre for Atmospheric Science/UKRI, UK. (2022). InteroperAble Descriptions of Observable Property Terminologies (I-ADOPT) WG Outputs and Recommendations. Research Data Alliance. https://doi.org/10.15497/RDA00071


    The InteroperAble Description of Observable Property Terminologies Working Group

    (I-ADOPT WG) was formed in June 2019 under the auspices of the Research Data Alliance’s Vocabulary and Semantic Services Interest Group. Its objective was to develop a framework to harmonise the way observable properties are named and conceptualised, in various communities within and across scientific domains. There was a realisation that the rapid demand for controlled vocabularies specialised in describing observed properties (i.e. measured, simulated, counted quantities, or qualitative observations) was presenting a risk of proliferation of semantic resources that were poorly aligned. This, in turn, was becoming a source of confusion for the end-users and a hindrance to data interoperability.

    The development of the I-ADOPT Framework proceeded in multiple phases. Following the initial phase dedicated to the collection of user stories, the identification of key requirements, and an in-depth analysis of existing semantic representations of scientific variables and of terminologies in use, the group focused on identifying the essential components of the conceptual framework, reusing as much as possible concepts that were common to existing operational resources. The proposed framework was then tested against a variety of examples to ensure that it could be used as a sound basis for the creation of new variable names as needed. The results were formalised into the I-ADOPT ontology and subsequently extended with usage guidelines to form the I-ADOPT Framework presented in this document. The output can now be used to facilitate interoperability between existing semantic resources and to support the provision of machine-readable variable descriptions whose components are mapped to FAIR vocabulary concepts. The group also issued the following six key recommendations:

    1. Data creators, curators or publishers should describe the variable(s) held in datasets in both a human- and a machine-readable format.
    2. The variable’s description should enable data reuse with minimum reliance on externally held free-text documentation.
    3. The machine-readable description should make use of FAIR terminologies (e.g., controlled vocabularies, ontological relationships) adhering to Linked Data principles.
    4. The translation from human readable to machine readable form should follow a decomposition approach that is compatible with the classes and relations defined in the I-ADOPT ontology (https://w3id.org/iadopt/).
    5. Users should preferably reuse terminologies that are already aligned with the I-ADOPT Framework by either reusing existing concepts or extending collections, or by creating new concepts based on the I-ADOPT Framework.
    6. For variables based on a different schema, a mapping to the I-ADOPT Framework should be provided.

    The group also set up public repositories to continue open collaboration and give access to resources that will be maintained and/or developed beyond the lifetime of the official RDA working group: 1) a catalogue of terminologies relevant to observable properties, 2) a repository of design patterns; 3) a step-by-step guide for minting new variables, 4) use-case specific guidelines on implementing the framework, 5) a repository of applications, and user implementation stories; 6) additional materials including a list of alignments with other ontological resources.


  • Group Technology focus: Data (Output) Management Planning
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