November 2-5, 2008
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Vocabularies in the VO

Alasdair Gray (University of Glasgow, UK)

Norman Gray (University of Leicester, UK)
Iadh Ounis (University of Glasgow, UK)

There are multiple controlled vocabularies, or thesauri, within astronomy, of which the best known are the 1993 IAU thesaurus and the keyword list maintained by A&A, ApJ and MNRAS. Over the last year, there has been an effort within the IVOA to formalise the presentation of these vocabularies into a form that will allow greater automated interaction with them, in particular on the Web. The IVOA has adopted the W3C SKOS standard, which makes links with the Semantic Web and looks forward to richer applications using the technologies of that domain. We will summarise this work, and highlight some of the immediate and medium-term possibilities of vocabularies and their more sophisticated cousins, ontologies.

Vocabulary aware applications can benefit from improvements in both precision and recall when searching for bibliographic or science data, and lightweight intelligent filtering for services such as VOEvent streams. An important part of this is mapping between precisely or roughly comparable terms in two vocabularies or, in the longer term, two analogous but distinct data models.

In particular, we will describe and demonstrate our VocabularyExplorer application, and its companion Mapping Editor. These combine Semantic Web and Information Retrieval technologies to (i) illustrate the way in which formal vocabularies might be used in a practical application, (ii) provide an online service which will allow astronomers to explore and relate existing vocabularies, and (iii) provide an embeddable service to help applications translate free text user queries into formal vocabulary terms.

Mode of presentation: oral