[tdwg-content] DwC for the semantic web

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Thu Apr 28 22:32:22 CEST 2011

This is a good point and one with which I generally agree.  In this 
particular case, the term IndividualOrganism has its roots in the 
discussion of last October/November.  At that time, I had proposed 
adding a class to Darwin Core called dwc:Individual which would be the 
object of the existing term dwc:individualID.  In that discussion, there 
were various options that were thrown around for the class name but in 
the end, it was left as Individual to correspond with the individualID 
term (in the same way that dwc:occurrenceID goes with dwc:Occurrence, 
dwc:eventID goes with dwc:Event, etc.).  Since Cam and my intention was 
for the class dsw:IndividualOrganism to mean the same thing as I had 
originally wanted the proposed dwc:Individual class to mean, we stuck 
with the "Individual" part even though the definition always allowed for 
small groups of organisms (see the definition of dwc:individualID at 
http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/index.htm#individualID).  However, since 
DSW is designed for the semantic web/LOD world and since "individual" 
has a different technical meaning in that context, we thought 
"IndividualOrganism" was more clear than just "Individual" (I think Pete 
DeVries first suggested IndividualOrganism somewhere in the 
discussion).  Whether or not that was the best choice or not, I don't 
know.  Often "IndividualOrganism" actually does correspond to an 
individual organism, so calling it that does allow for a certain amount 
of visualization of what it represents, although as the discussion of 
Oct/Nov showed, there may be problems associated with trying to put too 
much concrete meaning on something that is essentially abstract.

By the way, as far as I know the proposal for the dwc:Individual class 
is still on the table since as far as I know the TAG has taken no action 
to submit it to an up or down vote.  Given that, I suppose there is 
still some rationale for maintaining a connection between 
dsw:IndividualOrganism and the proposed dwc:Individual class, although 
as the definition of the dwc:Individual class was left when the subject 
was dropped, it was allowed to have instances which were taxonomically 
heterogeneous (unlike dsw:IndividualOrganism).  In that sense, the 
proposed dwc:Individual class is more like what we called "LivingEntity" 
in the alternative ontology (see 
http://code.google.com/p/darwin-sw/wiki/TaxonomicHeterogeneity for more 
on this).  At this point, I have lost interest in the dwc:Individual 
class proposal, since with DSW we are accomplishing what I wanted to do 
with that proposal (i.e. provide clearly defined class names that could 
be used with rdf:type, to provide a means to infer duplicates, and allow 
for resampling).  In particular, we reached the conclusion that the 
dwc:xxxxxxID terms were not useful in the context of RDF since their 
meaning was not clear.  Instead, we defined new terms to connect the 
classes that had clear domains and ranges, so dwc:individualID is not 
really relevant to the discussion in the context of DSW.


Mark Wilden wrote:
> 2011/4/28 Steve Baskauf <steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu>:
>> As a point of
>> clarification, the class dsw:IndividualOrganism as we have defined it in DSW
>> does not specify that an instance of the class must actually be an
>> individual organism [...] At
>> one point we considered using the name TaxonomicallyHomogeneousEntity, but
>> that seemed unwieldy.
> If that's what it is, then that's what it should be called, in my
> opinion. To have the term InvidualOrganism not actually mean
> "individual organism" is asking for trouble. Call it what it is, then
> try to think of a better term. But don't use the wrong term just
> because it's less unwieldy.
> That's how I name things, as a programmer (not an ontology-creator).
> In general, if I find that a thing is hard to name, then I don't
> really understand what it represents. Some concepts are simply
> unwieldy, though, but the name should still be accurate.
> My two cents - no doubt worth less. :)
> ///ark
> Web Applications Developer
> Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics
> California Academy of Sciences
> .

Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

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