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Use Case Crosslinking Environment Data and the Library

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Crosslinking Environment Data and the Library


Thomas Bandholtz thomas.bandholtz@innoq.com

Background and Current Practice

The Federal Environment Agency, Germany, (UBA) [1] has a long tradition in knowledge organization using a library along with many Web-based information systems presenting observation data and results of analysis. The backbone of this information space is a classification system enhanced by a reference vocabulary which consists of a thesaurus, a gazetteer and a chronicle. Until today, the library and the data representations are kept separately.


We want to cross-link bibliographical information with related environmental observation data, and both with the reference vocabulary. Linked data technology provides means to (URI-) reference specific data records, not only Web pages.

Target Audience

  1. General information for the public, but they may not be so interested in the data behind the reports.
  2. Professionals who are working on environmental topics, such as eco-audits.
  3. Academic people, both students and researchers.

Use Case Scenario

User A is searching the OPAC for some environmental topic and finds an article which is based on observation data. Along with the bibliographic record he sees a link to a Web representation of this observation data itself. So he can make his own analysis on the same data. User B is exploring some environmental information system which gives access to observation data. He makes his selection and retrieves a specific timeline or spatial distribution. Along with the data representation he finds links pointing to bibliographic records of publications which discuss this data. User C is exploring the reference vocabulary (SNS, [2]) and finds back-links pointing both to bibliographic records and data representations which are tagged with a concept.

Application of linked data for the given use case

For human users, the use case scenario works even with HTML Web pages if they are well structured and linked. Linked data technology provides a more fine-grained linkage. It simplifies the process of cross-linking, as both the OPAC and the data are referencing concept URIs instead of terms. It provides access for machine agents.

Existing Work (optional)

Since 2003, Semantic Network Service (SNS) [2] makes three reference vocabularies accessible: the thesaurus of the library, a gazetteer, and a chronicle. There is a Web representation of each concept, and there are web services (including automatic classification of Web pages) which return XML Topic Maps representations of concepts. In 2010 we started a Linked Environment Data initiative [3]. So far we migrated the thesaurus to a linked data RDF representation based on iQvoc [4], including linkage to GEMET [5]. At the same time we developed a linked data representation of the Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) [6] and a species catalog to be linked to EUNIS [7]. In 2011 we will bring this into production, migrate the gazetteer and the chronicle to linked data technology as well and establish detailed linking between ESB and SNS. The ESB Website includes many specific publications which are linked to data representations, but there is no integration of the OPAC catalogue [8] so far. There are plans for RDFying the OPAC catalog of the library as well, but no schedule so far.

Related Vocabularies (optional)

  • SKOS [9] for the classification and the reference vocabularies
  • elements of the Geonames Ontology [10] for the gazetteer
  • elements of the Event Ontology [11] for the chronicle
  • Dublin Core terms [12] for bibliographic records
  • elements of Darwin Core [13] for the species
  • Statistical Core Vocabulary (SCOVO) [14] for observation data of the ESB. SCOVO will be replaced by the Data Cube vocabulary [15].

Problems and Limitations (optional)

The most prominent obstacle is the lack of a dedicated funding for this initiative. There are some projects of the participating systems that draw up some of their budget for pieces of the puzzle, but there is no overall plan of the agency so far.

Technological obstacles:

  1. the lack of stable RDF vocabularies. SKOS and Dublin Core may be called mature, but the others are moving targets. There is no established property such as “relatedDataRecord” and “relatedPublication”.
  2. open source editions of triple stores are very difficult to handle, missing support for content negotiation based on user designed URI patterns, and they may not scale well.
  3. As we are developing Web applications with Ruby-on-rails, there is no usable RDF support in Ruby (compared to active record).

Related Use Cases and Unanticipated Uses (optional)

As the use case is not yet implemented, we cannot anticipate unanticipated uses ;-)

There may be some overlap with Authority Data Enrichment. There is also some overlap with the FAO use cases (Use Case FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme, Use Case AGRIS, and Use Case AGROVOC Thesaurus), as the FAO and the UBA both participate in the Ecoterm initiative [16].

References (optional)

[1] http://www.umweltbundesamt.de

[2] http://www.semantic-network.de/home.html?lang=en

[3] Linked Environment Data, see http://www.w3.org/egov/wiki/Linked_Environment_Data

[4] Bandholtz, T.; Schulte-Coerne, T.; Glaser, R.; Fock, J.; Keller, T. (2010) iQvoc – Open Source SKOS(XL) Maintenance and Publishing Tool. 6th Workshop on Scripting and Development for the Semantic Web. Heraklion 2010 http://www.semanticscripting.org/SFSW2010/

[5] http://www.eionet.europa.eu/gemet , see also: http://ckan.net/package/gemet

[6] http://www.umweltprobenbank.de/

[7] http://eunis.eea.europa.eu . EUNIS is in the LOD-cloud: http://ckan.net/package/eunis

[8] http://doku.uba.de

[9] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/

[10] http://www.geonames.org/ontology

[11] http://motools.sourceforge.net/event/event.html

[12] http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/

[13] http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/

[14] http://sw.joanneum.at/scovo/schema.html

[15] http://publishing-statistical-data.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/specs/src/main/html/cube.html

[16] http://ecoterm.infointl.com/