Earth Sciences ontology debate winds-up

Ontologists debate ‘EarthCube’ geological cyber infrastructure as prior art is studiously ignored.

Summing up the recent series of webinars on a proposed earth sciences ontology, Krishna Sinha (Virginia Tech) and Leo Obrst (Ontolog) described the event’s objectives as ‘exploring the current status and application of ontologies for a semantically enabled cyber infrastructure for earth sciences.’ The event was suported by members of the EarthCube, Ontolog, and IAOA communities. Speakers offered the usual ‘jam tomorrow’ promises of the semantic web, seamless data sharing, discovery and integration. Semantic technologies and ontologies were described as ‘key building blocks’ for next-generation scientific infrastructures.

Semantic Web technologies ‘appear to be’ widely applicable to large scale earth science data management and applications. A ‘semantic Broker’ is said to go beyond ‘typical geospatial discovery services’ allowing for automatic discovery of relevant and interoperable resources. The authors observe that the ontology/semantic web community has undergone several paradigm shifts over the years with a shift from top-down engineering to bottom-up construction allowing the discovery of information in ‘community-generated’ data available on the Web. Existing vocabularies, markup languages and ontologies ‘vary greatly in scope, design principles. Better definitions of terms from authoritative sources and richer formalized representations are required.

The miniseries also referred to the OGC’s GeoSparql that seeks to provide a formal representation of concepts within OGC standards. However this a geographic not geological standard. Despite a heads-up from Oil IT Journal, the geological equivalent GeoSciML appears to have been studiously ignored in the mini-series as indeed does the ‘prior art’ of the OneGeology initiative. More from EarthCube, earth science ontology and IAOA.

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