[tdwg-content] More schema-last (was Monkey Business)

Hilmar Lapp hlapp at nescent.org
Mon Feb 21 23:30:08 CET 2011


On Feb 21, 2011, at 4:51 PM, joel sachs wrote:

> most ontologies don't have users. I'll check Swoogle for some  
> statistics to back that up, but does anyone really dispute it?

I'm not sure that's a useful statement by itself. It is akin to saying  
that most software source code doesn't have users, and therefore the  
way we think about software is flawed.

So, of course if you count any ontology that has ever been started by  
anyone, the majority of those will likely not have users. That doesn't  
mean at all that that is necessarily also so for each and every  
community of practice. Most of the ontologies in the OBO Foundry/ 
Library do have users, and publications arising from that.

And what does that then mean for TDWG / Biodiversity ontologies, if  
you mean to say that most of those do not have users? I don't claim to  
know, but I think it does go to suggest 3 things: 1) Ontologies  
created by a narrow (not the same as small) group of people and  
intended to be used by many will likely end up not getting used at  
all. 2) To get domain scientists engaged in ontology development at  
breadth, training and community are not dispensable. 3) Ontology  
building is time consuming, and merely talking about ontologies, or  
developing ontologies for the sake of having developed ontologies,  
doesn't justify anyone's time investment. But using them to  
demonstrate biological discovery does.

I"m a big fan of LOD, in particular *because* it does not require full- 
blown ontologies for entry. I'm hugely in favor of de-siloing data,  
and LOD has much promise in this regard by applying the ultimate  
normalization. But we should also not fool ourselves into believing  
that somehow normalizing all data into triple form will let us  
discover new knowledge. I have yet to see the paper that reports a  
scientific discovery from a flat vocabulary LOD-style RDF integration  
that you couldn't have achieved in a fraction of the time by cobbling  
together a database schema and some massaging scripts.


: Hilmar Lapp  -:- Durham, NC -:- informatics.nescent.org :

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