[tdwg-tag] Creating a TDWG standard for documenting Data Standards

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Tue Mar 6 17:11:32 CET 2012

Dag and Éamonn,

In the context of the discussion which has been going on in the TDWG RDF 
mailing list, I have been thinking more about the issue of how to deal 
with DwC terms which state "Recommended best practice is to use a 
controlled vocabulary...".  That would be dcterms:type, dwc:language, 
dwc:basisOfRecord, dwc:sex, dwc:lifeStage, dwc:reproductiveCondition, 
dwc:behavior, dwc:establishmentMeans, dwc:occurrenceStatus, 
dwc:disposition, dwc:continent, dwc:waterBody, dwc:islandGroup, 
dwc:island, dwc:country, dwc:verbatimCoordinateSystem, 
dwc:identificationVerificationStatus, dwc:taxonRank; 
dwc:nomenclaturalCode, dwc:taxonomicStatus, dwc:relationshipOfResource, 
and dwc:measurementType .

It seems to me that it would be optimal for TDWG to have a standard for 
documenting controlled vocabularies of this sort which I believe to be 
the standard category "Data Standard (DS)" described at 
http://www.tdwg.org/standards/status-and-categories/ .  To my knowledge, 
there are no such current DS standards, nor are there any guidelines as 
to how they should be defined/documented.  But there SHOULD be such 
standards and the lack of them is impeding progress in our community.  I 
think this is reflected in your effort to form the VOMAG group.

TDWG does have a model for standards documentation in the form of the 
TDWG Standards Documentation Specification 
(http://www.tdwg.org/standards/147/), which although unratified is being 
used to specify how standards should be documented for humans.  There 
are also several models for defining controlled values in RDF:


There are probably more examples if I would look for them.  These models 
have some consistency in format which can guide us.

Since I have been the Audubon Core review manager, I am now pretty 
familiar with the process of TDWG standards development and 
ratification, so I think that it would be possible to draft a standard 
based on the existing models that I have listed above, and to do so in a 
reasonable amount of time.  I would envision that this standard would 
define how the human-readable and machine readable documentation of the 
controlled vocabularies would be written, but it would not specify who 
should maintain the vocabularies, where and how they should be 
maintained, etc.  Those are technical details that can be worked out by 
groups such as your Vocabulary Management Task Group.

Normally, the creation of a standard would be to form a task group to 
take on the task of creating the standard.  However, as far as I am 
concerned, the TDWG RDF group already has been given the task of 
creating this kind of thing and when your task group is approved, I 
think this task would be within the charge of it as well (your charter 
goal " Develop technical guidelines for TDWG vocabularies of basic 
terms..." .  So what I am proposing is that at some point in the near 
future, we work on creating this documentation standard as a joint 
project of the two task groups.  I am willing to get it started by 
writing a draft.  It could then be discussed by the two task groups and 
revised as necessary.  I do not think that this documentation standard 
needs to be very complex, nor will it be controversial.  So I think that 
it could be ratified in a period much shorter than what has been 
required for Technical Standards like Darwin Core and Audubon Core.  
Please note that I am NOT proposing that we actually create any Data 
Standards, but rather that we create guidelines for how they should be 
documented for humans and machines.

Although I am not in a position to initiate this at the present moment, 
I wanted to give you some time to think about this before I make any 
kind of official proposal.  I believe that the current discussion on the 
TDWG RDF email list is highly relevant to this issue because we need to 
work out how to present in RDF controlled vocabulary values in both 
string and URI reference forms.  In the context of the ongoing 
discussion on the list, I intend to specifically bring up the issue of 
dwc:basisOfRecord and dcterms:type which both specify the use of a 
controlled vocabulary and which both are defined in RDF as well as 
having text values.

I don't want to seem "pushy" about this.  However, when I took on the 
role as co-convener of the RDF Task Group, it was with the understanding 
that we would make significant progress in one year.  It has now been 
five months out of that year and I feel the need to demonstrate that we 
can accomplish something tangible.  If we cannot actually accomplish 
something in the course of a year, then I need to move on to other 
projects that I've put aside in order to work on this.  So I am 
committed to trying to keep things moving.

Please think about this and we can talk about it more later.


On 2/10/2012 5:20 AM, Dag Endresen (GBIF) wrote:
> Dear TAG,
> After battling with the plans for a biodiversity knowledge organization
> (KOS) framework for biodiversity information resources we have
> identified the requirement to develop guidelines and best practices for
> the management of vocabularies of terms. Basic terms organized in
> vocabularies provides an essential element to underpin the biodiversity
> information standards. As introduced at the TDWG 2011 TAG meetings in
> New Orleans, we propose the formation of a new Vocabulary Management
> Task Group (VOMAG) [1] to be organized under the TDWG technical
> architecture group (TAG). Please find the draft charter available from
> the GBIF Community Site [2][3]. Here you will also find another draft
> document "Biodiversity Knowledge Organization System: Proposed
> Architecture; Version 0.1 February 2012" that provides an overview of
> the proposed KOS landscape and the context for the proposed work-plan of
> the Vocabulary Management Task Group Charter.
> This is the first draft so far only discussed with Greg Whitbread as
> convener of the TDWG TAG and with Steve Baskauf and Joel Sachs as
> convener of the TDWG RDF/OWL task group. We invite feedback and comments
> to the proposed formation of the task group including suggestions with
> regard to the work-plan. Please join the Vocabulary Management group at
> the GBIF Community Site [1]. You can start or participate in discussions
> or share suggestions using the GBIF Community Site. Feel also free to
> make contact with us to volunteer as a core member for this proposed
> task group!
> [1] http://community.gbif.org/pg/groups/21382/vocabulary-management/
> [2] http://community.gbif.org/pg/file/read/21388/
> [3] http://community.gbif.org/pg/blog/read/21387/
> [4] http://community.gbif.org/pg/file/read/21582/
> Best regards
> Dag, Eamonn and David

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

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