Ontologies and controlled vocabularies are hierarchical schemas for data and metadata that can make them more readable to humans and machines. They differ in the level of detail they represent:
An ontology is a conceptualization of a domain of information that shows the categories of “things” in the domain and their hierarchical relationships.
A controlled vocabulary is a list of entities within each category of an ontology that specifies what each entity is named.
- They facilitate searching and meta-analysis within a data set.
- They enhance the interoperability of data sets across the “semantic web” or in repositories with data from multiple sources.
How are ontologies and vocabularies used?
- A very simple implementation could be using a convention for naming your data files and folders.
- A more complex scenario would be using a published ontology as a schema for your database. This could make it easier to deposit your data into a disciplinary repository that is based on the same ontology.
What help is available for ontologies and vocabularies?
A data specialist from one of the following groups may be able to help you find, adapt, and use an appropriate ontology/vocabulary.
- A digital curation consultant.
- The subject librarian for your department.
- An informatics specialist or IT consultant in your department.
Which ontologies or vocabularies should I use?
In some fields, for example, genomics, ontologies/vocabularies are well-established and widely used. In other disciplines, they are are emerging. The list below is a starting point. You may want to check professional societies and journals for ones that have been developed in your disciplinary area.
|Life Sciences||Bioportal biomedical ontologies from the NIH National Centers for Biomedical Computing.|
|OBO Foundry organismal, cellular, and molecular ontologies for both plants and animals.|
|Geospatial and Geography||Spatial Ontology Community of Practice describes current work developing spatial ontologies.|
|MUNI an open municipal and city ontology, currently under development.|
|Engineering||OntoCAPE a large scale ontology for Computer Aided Process Engineering.|
|Ontomedia an ontology for digital narratives.|