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Designing an Exchange Serialization Syntax for Scientific Observations Data and Models: A Workshop of the TDWG Observations Task Group

by jones last modified Jan 06, 2011 08:49 AM

TDWG Observations Task Group 

TDWG 2010, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA

Date: Thursday Sep. 30th, 2010, 8:30 - 11:30 am and 1:00 - 2:30 pm

Venue: Room MRC 210

Workshop Summary

A model of scientific observations that is shared and semantically expressive is one of the most promising means to discover, access, aggregate, and analyse on a broad scale scientific data about the earth and the organisms that inhabit it.  To this end, the TDWG Observations Task Group aims to produce a specification for exchanging observational data from scientific disciplines that are relevant to TDWG, including species occurrences, species characteristics, ecological data, and environmental measurements. At this 2010 workshop, the Task Group will examine select observational data models, with the specific purpose to converge on an exchange specification for observational data that can serialize data from those models without losing semantic or quantitative information. The models to initially focus on were chosen for their semantic expressivity, potentially broad scope of data domains, and widespread current application for biodiversity science-relevant data. They include OBOE, the Extensible Observation Ontology, a semantic model originally developed to expose the semantic content of heterogeneous ecological and environmental observations; the OGC Observations and Measurements model, developed to exchange environmental observations as part of the Sensor Web Enablement suite; the Entity-Quality (EQ) model, developed for making descriptive biological observations computable; and Darwin Core, a vocabulary and also an XML format in widespread use to exchange species observations.  The activities planned for the workshop include 1) beginning to define a syntax for the exchange standard using a few alternative approaches (such as XML Schema and RDF), and 2) for each serialization approach, identifying issues in scalability, expressivity, tool compatibility, etc. early on.  Participants will draw upon existing serialization work in observations data modeling, including the use of the OBOE, O+M, and EQ serialization approaches. The development of the exchange specification, and thus this workshop, is coordinated by a partnership of the TDWG Task Group with the NSF-funded Scientific Observations Network (SONet) and the Joint Working Group on Observational Data Models and Semantics. These initiatives have highly synergistic goals regarding the interoperability and semantic richness of observational data, but have a much broader remit.



  • Members of the Observations Task Group, SONet, the Joint Working Group on Observational Data Semantics, and others
  • assume detailed knowledge of 1 or more existing approaches to observations modeling
  • some may have expertise in OWL, XML Schema, etc.



  1. 1. Welcome and overview of the Observations Task Group goals (Matthew Jones) (30 mins) (slides)
    1. Relationship to other groups (SONet, JWG, etc.)
    2. Towards an observational data exchange standard (Hilmar Lapp) 
    3. Participant Introductions (round the room)
  2. Approaches to serialization and exchange of observational data (10 mins each) (40 mins total)
    1. O+M  (Matt Jones) (slides)
    2. OBOE (Mark Schildhauer) (slides)
    3. EQ (Hilmar Lapp) (slides)
    4. SERONTO (Kathi Schleidt)
    5. Darwin Core (?)
  3. Working session: needs for an observational data model exchange specification (Lapp moderates) (2 hours)
    1. Products: 
      1. Desiderata for the exchange syntax/modeling language (e.g., effectiveness for expressing ontological concepts, linked data compliance)
      2. Requirements for the exchange syntax (e.g., shouldn't massively expand the data size)
        • Brainstorming exercise, consolidation
      3. Approach to an exchange schema (in XML, or other tech) covering OBOE, EQ, O+M
        • Format that uses RDF/OWL?
        • Goal: recommedations regarding which approach, possibly nascent syntax
  4. Action items and timeline: (15 mins) (Jones moderates)
    1. Create milestones and action items leading to presentation of an observational data exchange standard at 2011 meeting
    2. Ratification
    3. Identify action items for community outreach to involve BD and Geospatial groups at TDWG
  5. Adjourn

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