Harnessing the Power of Unified Metadata in an Ontology Repository: The Case of AgroPortal

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Research Article

Publication Title

Journal on Data Semantics


As any resources, ontologies, thesaurus, vocabularies and terminologies need to be described with relevant metadata to facilitate their identification, selection and reuse. For ontologies to be FAIR, there is a need for metadata authoring guidelines and for harmonization of existing metadata vocabularies—taken independently none of them can completely describe an ontology. Ontology libraries and repositories also have to play an important role. Indeed, some metadata properties are intrinsic to the ontology (name, license, description); other information, such as community feedbacks or relations to other ontologies are typically information that an ontology library shall capture, populate and consolidate to facilitate the processes of identifying and selecting the right ontology(ies) to use. We have studied ontology metadata practices by: (1) analyzing metadata annotations of 805 ontologies; (2) reviewing the most standard and relevant vocabularies (23 totals) currently available to describe metadata for ontologies (such as Dublin Core, Ontology Metadata Vocabulary, VoID, etc.); (3) comparing different metadata implementation in multiple ontology libraries or repositories. We have then built a new metadata model for our AgroPortal vocabulary and ontology repository, a platform dedicated to agronomy based on the NCBO BioPortal technology. AgroPortal now recognizes 346 properties from existing metadata vocabularies that could be used to describe different aspects of ontologies: intrinsic descriptions, people, date, relations, content, metrics, community, administration, and access. We use them to populate an internal model of 127 properties implemented in the portal and harmonized for all the ontologies. We—and AgroPortal’s users—have spent a significant amount of time to edit and curate the metadata of the ontologies to offer a better synthetized and harmonized information and enable new ontology identification features. Our goal was also to facilitate the comprehension of the agronomical ontology landscape by displaying diagrams and charts about all the ontologies on the portal. We have evaluated our work with a user appreciation survey which confirms the new features are indeed relevant and helpful to ease the processes of identification and selection of ontologies. This paper presents how to harness the potential of a complete and unified metadata model with dedicated features in an ontology repository; however, the new AgroPortal’s model is not a new vocabulary as it relies on preexisting ones. A generalization of this work is studied in a community-driven standardization effort in the context of the RDA Vocabulary and Semantic Services Interest Group.

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All Open Access, Hybrid Gold, Green

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