[tdwg-tag] Re-organisation of TDWG Ontology: Danger silence will == acquiescence!

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Tue May 12 16:22:39 CEST 2009

As an aside, there is a technological aspect this approach which is
symptomatic of where TDWG finds itself at the moment.  Unless a
taxonomist speaks fluent OWL and owns and can drive a copy of Protege,
they will not able to participate, effectively excluding most
taxonomists on the planet.  (on second thought, this might actually be
a good thing...)

How do we propose to engage those who work daily with the 'bricks and
mortar' of taxonomy but who are just not equipped to understand what
is being done with and presented by the technology?  Or has the fabric
of taxonomy now finally become too important and to complicated to be
left to taxonomists?

Perhaps a translation of the ontologies into a non technical format
that taxonomists could read and comment on might be a way get greater
engagement from a wider range of taxonomists?  Given the opportunity
and the means, they might be able to offer significant narrative for
the vocabularies.  Or maybe not...

In the absence of a workable alternative to what is being proposed, I
too must offer silence...


On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 6:59 PM, Roger Hyam <rogerhyam at mac.com> wrote:
> Hi All,
> I need to do some work on the Taxon Name and Taxon Concept vocabularies and
> believe I have come up with a good way of organising the TDWG ontology space
> (everything within http:/rs.tdwg.org/ontology).
> The following are the changes I suggest:
> All files should be OWL DL compliant
> All files should be openable in Protege 4 (I believe this is now good enough
> to use for editing these small ontologies)
> We take a highly structured modular approach I call this the Bricks and
> Mortar design pattern
> Some files are 'Bricks' and as such import or reference no other files,
> classes or individuals. e.g. TaxonName does not mention a higher 'Name'
> object in the class hierarchy.
> Other files are 'Mortar'. These files import Bricks and stipulate
> relationships between things. Because we are using OWL it is easy to define
> things like the class hierarchy or the range of a property in a separate
> file to the file the original class or property was defined in.
> This pattern gives us maximum re-usability as the same Brick could be used
> in different ways. It does not bind us to any one implementation of one
> object.
> An example of the usage pattern would be to define TaxonName, TaxonConcept,
> Rank, NomenclaturalCode as separate bricks that don't reference each other
> at all then create a TCS ontology that imports these 4 bricks and defines
> their relationships.
> We move to some other method of presenting the ontologies on line - possibly
> the OWLDoc plug-in for Protege. This would lose us the branded look we have
> at the moment but would be more flexible and consistent in the long run.
> As I need to do this for the TaxonName TaxonConcept vocabularies I volunteer
> to do manage the space this year if people are happy going down this route.
> From the point of view of deployed systems (the nomenclators) there may be a
> need for a namespace change on some properties but I would review what is in
> use and this would be trivial - if necessary at all.
> What do you think? I will take silence as acquiescence on the grounds that
> any movement is better than none -  though I don't suppose I will get round
> to doing anything about changes till after e-Biosphere in June.
> All the best,
> Roger
> -----------------------------------------------------
>  Roger Hyam - Project Officer WP4
>  Pan European Species Infrastructure
>  +44 75 90 60 80 16
> -----------------------------------------------------
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Jim Croft ~ jim.croft at gmail.com ~ +61-2-62509499 ~

"Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality."
- Joseph Conrad, author (1857-1924)

"I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said,
but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
 - attributed to Robert McCloskey, US State Department spokesman

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