[tdwg-content] Information about how controlled vocabularies would be handled under the draft Standards Documentation Specification

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Sat Mar 11 15:50:17 CET 2017

At the TDWG meeting in December, I led an informative session describing 
the main points of the draft Standards Documentation Specification (SDS) 
and its sister standard, the draft Vocabulary Management Specification.  
At that session, some participants seem to be taken aback at the 
prescription by the SDS that controlled vocabularies should be SKOS 
concept schemes rather than ontologies.  There wasn't enough time at the 
meeting to fully explore that issue and I hoped that it would come up 
for further discussion during the public comment period.

We are now midway through the 30 day public comment period on the SDS 
and so far, that issue has not come up.  I was recently listening to the 
recording of John Wieczorek's nice Darwin Core Hour presentation on 
controlled vocabularies and it was apparent to me that the creation of 
controlled vocabularies is an issue of interest to many in the 
community.  So I've written a blog post 
(http://baskauf.blogspot.com/2017/03/controlled-values-again.html) that 
attempts to explain in non-technical terms how the SDS specifies that 
controlled vocabularies should be expressed in machine-readable form.  
For those who are interested in the gory details, I've also included at 
the end a more detailed explanation of the rationale for specifying that 
controlled vocabularies should, in most cases, be described as SKOS 
concept schemes rather than ontologies. 

If you care about the creation of controlled vocabularies, you should 
take a look at this post and create an official comment if there are 
things you don't like about the approach taken in the proposed 
specification.  Our review manager, Dag Endresen, has requested that 
issues be raised on the issue tracker at 
https://github.com/tdwg/vocab/issues .  However, historically 
back-and-forth discussion about proposed standards has also taken place 
on this list, so I think that responding here for clarification and 
discussion would be appropriate prior to submitting an official comment.


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

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