Improved Semantics for Domain Vocabulary Development & Standardization - RDA 9th Plenary BoF meeting

Meeting title

Bof on Improved Semantics for Domain Vocabulary Development & Standardization

Short introduction describing the activities and the scope of the group: 

Discussions at previous plenaries and the well attended BoF at P8 demonstrated the understanding and interest in the topic of domain vocabularies especially how to build and harmonization relevant vocabularies. More standardizing of the registration and management of domain vocabulary is needed since terms help as data/metadata documentation. 
Continued interest in issues of controlled vocabulary use, for example, to index & retrieve data resources, was manifest in the domain topics discussed at the recent Chairs Collaboration meeting at NIST. 
However early terminologies developments were often arbitrary with little supporting conceptualizations or real standardization. As a result we have many competing domain vocabularies having concept scope; but alternate definitions and representations. These may be stored with alternative access methods. Alternate terms, the lack of clear definitions and poor maintenance of vocabularies makes systematic vocabulary use difficult and integration with other vocabularies difficult. Naming schemes often suggest some implied semantics since descriptions are more or less purposeful and theory-laden. In their description of chemicals, for example, pharmacologists will emphasize the medical roles of effects of chemicals/drugs, whereas "pure" chemists emphasis other aspects of substances such as their structure and related properties. 

Despite decades of intensive work on controlled vocabularies (standardized sets of terms) and now human readable definitions accessible via URIs on the Web, challenges remain. While linked data using RDF/S provides some help with representation and syntax there is often little supporting, systematic conceptualization. Even work with classification schemes and thesauri lack well-defined domain semantics and structural consistency, which makes matching up concepts that terms represent difficult.

Additional links to informative material related to the group i.e. group page, Case statement, working documents etc

Chemistry Research Data IG,
Data Foundations and Terminology IG,
Vocabulary Services Interest Group,
Vocabulary Development workshop exploring Chemistry Research and Materials Research topics
File for some briefing information and slides from the session.
See also several pages of draft notes from the session.

There was a virtual meeting  follow up session to this on Nov. 10th, 2016 from 12:30-2:30 Eastern time. Mark Fox who presented at the BoF provided a longer presentation on Ontology Design patterns for Global City Indicators
information and slides that can be downloaded.
An audio recording of this has been placed on that site.

This problem was noted at the P8 BoF and explore more systematically at a latter webinar (see for the 8 talks on this topic.)

Remote Access:

GTM Link:  

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Meeting objectives

The intention of this session is to provide a suitable venue to continue RDA domain-oriented groups exploration of common current approach to developing, registering and managing vocabularies. Domain-oriented groups will be asked to provide one or more use cases and brief current approach to developing & importing vocabularies, harmonizing internal and external vocabularies with functions like "mapping.”
Focused discussion will include input from the vocabulary services community as an examples of relevant tools along with tools from the metadata and semantic communities along with an understanding of what degree of automation can be provided.

Meeting agenda

This session will mirror the earlier P8 BoF and start with an overview of objects and the proposed agenda as well as a proposed IG to institutionalize the discussion.

  • Select domain groups will provide a brief summary of their work, relevant vocabularies and standards and an illustrative use case such as harmonization and mappings between 2 or more vocabularies and issues involved.
  • Following presentations major time will be devoted to community discussion of common interests, issues and examples of best practice solutions in the domain vocabulary space. These will leverage the experiences of the follow on Webenar and Vocabulary Development workshop.
  • Whenever possible focus will be given to discuss issues of vocabularies reflecting actual innovative, tools and supporting activities and services available from current research and development
  • The session will conclude with discussion of follow up on common interests and venues for this such as in existing vocabulary group and exploration of interest future sessions. 


Chemistry Research Data IG, materials ResarchIG. Global Water Information IG, Geospatial IG, Structural Biology IG, Biodiversity Data Integration IG Quality of Urban Life IG, Health Data
Selective domain groups will provide a brief summary of their work, relevant vocabularies and standards and an illustrative use case such as harmonization and mappings between 2 or more vocabularies and issues involved.
Data Foundations and Terminology IG will moderate the meeting and provide information on vocabulary harmonization
Vocabulary Services Interest Group will provide information on available vocabulary services

Group chair serving as contact person: Gary Berg-Cross

Type of meeting: Working meeting