Paul Alexander

Using Existing Ontologies

Just as with other types of controlled vocabularies, there are many opportunities for communities to use the same ontologies. This can save time and resources and provide a common way to share data among different members of a community.

There are several toolsets that can facilitate your work with ontologies. First, a major hurdle to the adoption of this technology is a simple method by which to discover commonly used ontologies. Search engines and community-run registries and repositories—several of which are listed in the next section—can help.

Core Technologies for Ontologies

The use of ontologies for data interoperability and Semantic Web technologies relies on a core set of standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (w3c). Using these standards, technology implementers everywhere can deploy solutions that work not only in their individual instance but can work with software and data created and provided by others.

The Importance of Ontologies

We've discussed controlled vocabularies, what they are, how they are created, and how they are put into use. Using controlled vocabularies in the form of ontologies gives you all the benefits of normal vocabularies with the added robustness of ontologies. Though there is a learning curve, when you begin to see vocabularies from an ontological point of view, the potential for more complex relationships in your data, greater interoperability, and using computer reasoning becomes apparent.

What is an Ontology?

An ontology is a representation of knowledge, generally of a particular subject (domain), written with a standardized, structured syntax. An ontology contains concepts (resources), which serve to characterize the domain.

Ontologies: Relational Vocabularies

Data managers, scientists, and others in the marine science community are used to working with controlled vocabularies, even if they know them by another name. After all, anyone working with a set of data described using an agreed-upon set of terms has been exposed to a controlled vocabulary.

Controlled vocabularies are a good tool: they are often simple to develop, can be used among a small community of users, and are easy to store, visualize, and access.

Organize and Share Data

Ontologies can help organize information about a domain, either within a data system or across different data systems. Ontologies achieve this because of their basic features:

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