[tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer'sperspective [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Chuck Miller Chuck.Miller at mobot.org
Fri May 15 18:47:09 CEST 2009

As you know, I am a proponent of the simple and the understandable, particularly for the folks like Lynette.  I am glad to see a couple of appeals from the gallery to counterpoint the continuing pursuit of the complex issues. The biodiversity informatics/data community like it or not is primarily made up of those who do not spend their time expanding the limits of web-based semantic inference.  It may very well be that the only viable solutions for some of the use cases of biodiversity can only be reached by semantic inference.  But, the barrier to entry for folks like Lynnette (and there are many, many) is just too high and so solving those use cases by web-based semantics is simply out of reach for them.  We must accept that.

We positively must enable the folks who do not understand triples, RDF, OWL, SPARQL and the rest to still be able to play in the global biodiversity data sandbox. We must continue to offer methods and techniques that do not require this level of knowledge. Call it a "light" version, or whatever you will, but I strongly believe the community at large needs it.  Unfortunately, that "community at large" doesn't speak up on Taxacom or TDWG much. I fear it's because they can't follow the technical threads and like Lynette are baffled and discouraged.

TDWG has to continue to recognize the need to keep it simple, at least in part. It's always an 80-20 situation I think.  That does not preclude continuing work on the deeper, triples-based approaches for the 20%.  But, we must additionally and in parallel provide simpler, compatible approaches for the 80%.  We need to listen to that 80%.


-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Lee Belbin
Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:38 PM
To: tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer'sperspective [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Hi Lynette, Greg, Gregor et al.,

I've only just caught up with this thread, but feel obliged to post (I sound like Rich).

A few months ago (and not for the first time), I came to exactly the same conclusion as you Lynette. There is I fear, a growing gap between the more technical members of TDWG and those who are joining TDWG from applications areas such as biology, taxonomy etc. As time goes on, this gap seems more evident, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the 'TDWG ontology'.

The TDWG ontology is probably the most important priority we currently have. Your comments about the use of the ontology to help newcomers understand the domain is spot on. I'd also say that the newcomers are in many cases, domain experts who have a lot to contribute to the ontology, but really can't in its present form. The ontology is also mandatory if we want to efficiently cross link all the various TDWG activities/groups. Recent comments about Darwin Core and the TDWG ontology is a prime example! 

The ontology is priority-1 for TDWG, BUT (it is a big but), we need effective tools (preferably A web based tool) that would EASILY enable anyone (not just Protégé experts) to view (in various forms that were suitable for the purpose), manage, build, annotate, document, import and export bits or all of the ontology/vocabularies is helpful formats.

If TDWG has these issues with developing and using an effective ontology, plenty of others must have also! Surely? 

I discussed this with Donald and he agreed and said that Greg and Garry were thinking about this as well (as Greg has suggested). I also discussed the ontology issue with Gail Kampmeier as she has a graduate student looking for a biodiversity informatics project - and this is a beauty. Markus Döring also said at the Fremantle meeting that he was keen to lead work on the ontology. I also discussed this same issue a month or so ago with Roger (post TONTO :), but I fear that Roger is in the 'techie' category and didn't fully grasp what I was trying to get across about SIMPLE etc. That's probably my fault. Your email Lynette seems to have got the point across better than I've done. 

There is a meeting about the ontology scheduled on the Tuesday evening at eBiosphere where Donald, Eamonn, Karen Stocks, hopefully Roger and a few others plan to discuss the issues. Please let me know the key issues that COULD be addressed at that meeting. Thankfully there seems to be some critical mass building about quickly moving forward on the ontology. I'd like to see what I can do to ensure that it happens.

There is obviously nothing stopping work on aspects of the ontology such as Roger and Peter have suggested. If I can do anything about setting up a Wiki or similar easy tasks, please let me know.


Lee Belbin
TDWG Secretariat

-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Greg Whitbread
Sent: Thursday, 14 May 2009 7:09 PM
To: Lynette.Woodburn at csiro.au
Cc: tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer's perspective [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]


Yes. I agree.  To this end we (Garry is the one with the Twiki skills) are experimenting with ways of doing this using the TDWG wiki, one term per page described using dcmi /terms/ namepaces http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/ , but alternatives do need to be considered before we make a start. I have just had another look at the MRTG Schema at http://www.keytonature.eu/wiki/MRTG_Schema_v0.7 for instance. A solution supporting export to a formal representation would be ideal though if it came to the choice, accessibility should take priority. Somewhere between Roger's lsid vocabularies and the MRTG schema page there must be a way to achieve this.  

Is Semantic-mediawiki an option?


On Thu, 2009-05-14 at 13:30, Lynette.Woodburn at csiro.au wrote:
> Back to basics ...
> Anyone new to biodiversity informatics (in general) and TDWG (in
> particular) might be expected, as a first step, to seek a broad 
> understanding of the scope of the knowledge domain which is of 
> interest to the community they've just joined.  Next, they're likely 
> to want to gain an understanding of each of the main concepts and to 
> discover how those concepts relate to one other.  Delving yet deeper, 
> curiosity will lead them to seek details about features used by the 
> community to characterise each of those main concepts.  So, gradually, 
> it is anticipated that newcomers will gain an understanding of the 
> meaning associated by their fellow community members with elements 
> (concepts, features, relationships) within the knowledge domain.
> (Those elements are, after all, the chief subjects of discourse 
> amongst community members.)
> This fantastic voyage of discovery, these first steps into Aladdin's 
> Cave, ought to be made easy for any newcomer.  Instead, TDWG presents 
> a dizzying array of perspectives on disparate subsets of elements 
> within the knowledge domain, often with only cryptic, tenuous links 
> binding them together.  'Horses-for-courses'-drivers clearly exist for 
> these subsets, but where is the common community understanding of 
> where each element fits into the broader, shared knowledge domain 
> which is TDWG's scope?
> I fully support any initiative which more effectively leads newcomers 
> (and not-so-newcomers) to that place: that place where I would hope to 
> find, in plain expressions devoid of techno-speak, a description of 
> each real world element (concept, feature, relationship), together 
> with a simple representation (a label?) by which the TDWG community 
> prefers each to be referred; that place which evolves, but endures, 
> independently of technological fashions and particular 
> implementations; that place I can visit to paint a picture in my 
> mind's eye of TDWG's own Aladdin's Cave.
> Lynette Woodburn
> Atlas of Living Australia
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