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Use Case FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme

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Use Case FAO Authority Description

Concept Scheme


FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme Owner Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Contact person: Johannes Keizer <johannes.keizer @fao.org>

Background and Current Practice

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has undertaken the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme project based on the adoption of a concept-based system [1] for representing traditional authority control lists for Corporate Bodies, Conferences, Series, Journals and Projects. The authority schemes used in these use cases are coming from the FAO Bibliographic Catalogue [2] and are related to agriculture and related sciences.

The FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme contains labels, in more than 15 languages, elements like international codes and other URIs (e.g. ISSN, ISSN-L, EISSN, Directory of Open Access Journals -DOAJ- [3] URIs), subjects (e.g. AGROVOC URIs), geographic information (e.g. city, state and country, for which the Geopolitical Ontology [4] URIs is used) and concept-to-concept relationships like Is published by/Publishes, Is other language edition of, Has part/Is part of or Follows/Precedes.

The FAO Concept Server Workbench (CS WB) system [5] was chosen as software solution for the data management since it allows the representation of semantics such as specific relationships between concepts and relationships between their multilingual forms. In addition, it is a web-based working environment which provides tools and functionalities that facilitate the collaborative editing of the multilingual terminology and the semantic concept information. It also includes workflows for maintenance, validation and quality assurance of the data.

Web services were implemented for accessing the schema’s and returning formatted data for repositories/data providers and service providers which would like to access and use the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme [6] to assure efficiency in the data entry, cross-linguistic information retrieval and linking.

In summary, the objective of the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme is to provide more efficient management of the several multilingual forms of a concept through the use of URIs and the assignment of relationships between concepts. Its benefits include providing efficient system searching and exhaustive search results. It improves access dramatically by providing consistency in the forms used to identify corporate authors, conferences, journals, etc.


(1) what is achieved in the scenario without referring to linked data

  • reliable search results
  • easy retrieval of information resources
  • use of consistent terminology/unique forms
  • standardization in record creation
  • simplified record maintenance
  • quicker and more logical cataloguing process

(2) how we use linked data technology to achieve this goal

  • Creating authority records with unique URIs expressed in RDF with a SPRQL endpoint
  • Using a concept-based model where a concept is represented by all the forms, preferred and non-preferred, in all languages and attributes, associated with it. A form would be a word (simple term) or a multiword expression (complex term) that designates a particular concept.
  • Creating specific relationships between concepts.
  • Establishing relations between the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme and other vocabularies in the cloud

Target Audience

  • Individual users: publishers, librarians, researchers…
  • Information systems: document repositories, library catalogs…
  • Service providers

Use Case Scenario

End-user searching: linked authorities

John searches for “FAO” in a document repository, the system will direct him to all the records associated with the authorized form of this corporate body which is indicated in its authority. The authorized form is “Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations”. The authority record serves thus to bring together all form of names for this corporate body, authorized and non-authorized, e.g. “FAO, Rome (Italy)”, “F.A.O.”, “FAO”, “Food and Agriculture Organization, F.A.O. of the U.N.” or “FAO of the UN”. Associated to the authority record for FAO are all the bibliographical records of documents issued by the concept of FAO. This assures John that his search is exhaustive.

Institutional repository

2a Marc wants to deposit a paper in his institutional open access document repository. The document to be deposited is a journal article. From the data entry interface Marc accesses to the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme webservice which provides the list of international journals in agriculture and related sciences. He selects a journal from the list, and the system invokes the URI and the labels in different languages. The system can even integrate more information from the webservice such as the ISSN. As a result Marc has described the journal of his paper with consistent data.

2b The open access document repository stores the record. When Marc searches for his article on the output interface, he can link the results with the library information cloud.

End-user searching: discovery of linked objects

3 Philip is looking for journals on Aquaculture and Fisheries where to submit his research paper. Philip knows about the List of International Journals in Agriculture and Related Sciences published on the AIMS [7] website and decides to search there. He looks for journals using the keyword “fisheries”. He gets a list of 20 results from which he wants to know more about the “Aquaculture, Aquarium, Conservation & Legislation” journal. He clicks on the record, gets information but also the link to the Directory of Open Access Journals -DOAJ- website from which he discovers that “Aquaculture, Aquarium, Conservation & Legislation” is an open access journal and also that there is the journal content available on DOAJ. From DOAJ he can also access to the journal website. As a result, Philip can browse from the List of International Journals in Agriculture and Related Sciences to DOAJ and then to the Journal Website getting specific information during that process that helps him to decide whether to submit or not his research paper to the journal for evaluation.

Application of linked data for the given use case

  • To export the authority records in RDF
  • To publish HTTP URIs and RDF records
  • To enhance the linking among digital objects and linked data sources
  • To provide SPAQRL endpoint for making queries in RDF

Related Vocabularies

  • SKOS (relationships/data) [8]
  • BIBO (data) [9]
  • FOAF (data) [10]
  • DC and DCTerms (data) [11]
  • RDA [12]

Related metadata models and schemas

The FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme has been already integrated in MODS [13] and the FRBR [14] model using Fedora Commons [15].

Problems and Limitations

  • Diversity of vocabularies: the use of different vocabularies can constraint the vocabulary mapping between two different linked data sets.
  • Duplication of equivalent concepts among different remote data sources
  • Technical limitations for their use in traditional library catalogs or document repositories
  • Reduced number of tools for the management of linked data sets as the FAO Authority Description Concept Scheme.

Library Linked Data Dimensions / Topics

  • Users needs > Browse / Explore / Select/ Retrieve / Find
  • Systems > Library systems > MARC Catalogs
  • Systems >Non library information systems > Citation tools
  • Information assets > Registries
  • Conceptual Models and KOS> Knowledge representation issues
  • Applying SemWeb Technology to Library Data (Implementation) > Legacy data, Vocabularies , Use of

Related Use Cases


[1] http://aims.fao.org/community/pages/authority-control-content-model [registration required]

[2] FAO Catalogue http://www4.fao.org/faobib/toc.html

[3] http://www.doaj.org/

[4] Geopolitical Ontology http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/geoinfo.asp


http://aims.fao.org/community/pages/6-concept-server-workbench [registration required]

[6] The Authority Control System is accessible from

[7] Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS) http://aims.fao.org/

[8] SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/

[9] Bibliographic Ontology Website http://bibliontology.com/

[10] The Friend of a Friend (FOAF) projecthttp://www.foaf-project.org/

[11] Dublin Core Metadata Initiative http://dublincore.org/

[12] RDA http://www.rda-jsc.org/rda.html

[13] Metadata Object Description Schema http://www.loc.gov/standards/mods/

[14] Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s13/frbr/frbr_current_toc.htm

[15] Fedora Commons http://fedora-commons.org/