Observatory for Knowledge Organisation Systems workshop, Malta, 2017

Suzanne Barbalet

The Observatory for Knowledge Organisation Systems workshop, an event of KNOWeSCAPE – Analyzing the Dynamics of Information and Knowledge Landscapes, met in Malta from 1-3 February this year. KNOWeSCAPE is funded under the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) framework.

Based on a European intergovernmental framework for cooperation in science and technology, COST supports trans-national cooperation across all fields in science and technology, including social sciences and humanities, through pan-European networking of nationally funded research activities. Contributors to this event were indeed representative of such a cross-section of Knowledge Organisation System (KOS) users and developers.

Philipp Mayr from the GESIS department of Knowledge Technologies for the Social Sciences (WTS) reported on case studies using two KOS applications for query expansion for the platforms, Sowiport, and Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) that his team manages. These platforms cover bibliographic information and full text in the social sciences. When the two KOS applications were mapped to one another by subject specialists it was found that the use of more than one KOS tool improved the user experience.

A presentation by Kalpana Shankar reported on a study of two data archives, UK Data Archive, University of Essex and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan, with the aim of raising larger questions about data sustainability. Still a work in progress, it promises to be an important piece of research on the history of social science data archives and their impact on the social sciences in the latter part of the twentieth century.

An interesting talk by Paul Groth, Elsevier, Netherlands considered how the process of constructing a KOS might be changing with the incorporation of software agents and non-professional contributors and suggested a role for a KOS observatory to engage these issues.

On the second day the workshop concluded with an interesting question and answer session on the collaborative process used in the development of Wikipedia content. A strong thread in the debate that ensued was the role a national Wikipedia may play in the preservation of cultural heritage.

In the first presentation of the cataloguing session Jan Kozlowski challenged us to consider the importance of providing metadata for modern European manuscripts. Two further presentations were on the schema Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). In her presentation Universal Knowledge Classifications: From Linking Information to Linked Data Aida Slavic, stressed the importance of classification to ensure full retrieval for those instances where we cannot afford not to find everything. This argument was similar to that made by Patrick Lambe at the ISKO UK conference 2015 and reported on in ELSST Development and News.

A presentation by Peter Hook from Wayne State University entitled Visualizing Knowledge Organization Systems provided some interesting insights that have application for a project I have been piloting using UDC to manage the content of subject categories or topics.

I am particularly grateful to Andrea Scharnhorst of Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), Netherlands and Aida Slavic, editor-in-chief of the UDC Consortium for the invitation to attend.

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