[tdwg-tag] Lobbing grenades: a challenge

Donald.Hobern at csiro.au Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Thu Sep 22 05:53:00 CEST 2011

"Grumpy old arse" or not, this is an important question.  However, I'd also like to suggest that the move to RDF has likely benefits which are not related to our ability to use semantic technologies over the data.

Given our current stage of standardisation of biodiversity data, RDF has always seemed to me primarily to be the most convenient technology to treat disparate data records as bags of properties that are asserted about a real-world object or concept.  In other words, I want to use RDF primarily as a data-transfer technology, without the closed-model or versioning issues that can arise with XML Schema, and with greater clarity and flexibility for complex data than is possible with CSV.  RDF makes it much easier for any project to reuse a set of core properties and supplement them with others specific to their interests.  This is the first and primary driver for moving to RDF.  Standardising vocabularies and semantics and moving toward the possibility of semantic exploration seems to me to be a bigger, more long-term goal.  


Donald Hobern, Director, Atlas of Living Australia
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 62464352 Mobile: 0437990208 
Email: Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Web: http://www.ala.org.au/ 

Roderic Page wrote:
> It's morning and the coffee hasn't quite kicked in yet, but reading 
> through recent TDWG TAG posts, and mindful of the upcoming meeting in 
> New Orleans  (which sadly I won't be attending) I'm seeing a mismatch 
> between the amount of effort being expended on discussions of 
> vocabularies, ontologies, etc. and the concrete results we can point to. 
> Hence, a challenge:
> "What new things have we learnt about biodiversity by converting 
> biodiversity data into RDF?"
> I'm not saying we can't learn new things, I'm simply asking what have 
> we learnt so far? 
> Since around 2006 we have had literally millions of triples in the 
> wild (uBio, ION, Index Fungorum, IPNI, Catalogue of Life, more 
> recently Biodiversity Collections Index, Atlas of Living Australia, 
> World Register of Marine Species, etc.), most of these using the same 
> vocabulary. What new inferences have we made?
> Let's make the challenge more concrete. Load all these data sources 
> into a triple store (subchallenge - is this actually possible?). 
> Perhaps add other RDF sources (DBpedia, Bio2RDF, CrossRef). What novel 
> inferences can we make?
> I may, of course, simply be in "grumpy old arse" mode, but we have 
> millions of triples in the wild and nothing to show for it. I hope I'm 
> not alone in wondering why...
> Regards
> Rod
> ---------------------------------------------------------
> Roderic Page
> Professor of Taxonomy
> Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
> College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
> Graham Kerr Building
> University of Glasgow
> Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
> Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk <mailto:r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
> Tel: +44 141 330 4778
> Fax: +44 141 330 2792
> AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com <mailto:rodpage1962 at aim.com>
> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112517192
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> Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com
> Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html

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