Knowledge Evolution in Distributed Geoscience Datasets and the Role of Semantic Technologies

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Xiaogang Ma, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, United States
Knowledge evolves in geoscience, and the evolution is reflected in datasets. In a context with distributed data sources, the evolution of knowledge may cause considerable challenges to data management and re-use. For example, a short news published in 2009 (Mascarelli, 2009) revealed the geoscience community’s concern that the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s change to the definition of Quaternary may bring heavy reworking of geologic maps. Now we are in the era of the World Wide Web, and geoscience knowledge is increasingly modeled and encoded in the form of ontologies and vocabularies by using semantic technologies. Accordingly, knowledge evolution leads to a consequence called ontology dynamics. Flouris et al. (2008) summarized 10 topics of general ontology changes/dynamics such as: ontology mapping, morphism, evolution, debugging and versioning, etc. Ontology dynamics makes impacts at several stages of a data life cycle and causes challenges, such as: the request for reworking of the extant data in a data center, semantic mismatch among data sources, differentiated understanding of a same piece of dataset between data providers and data users, as well as error propagation in cross-discipline data discovery and re-use (Ma et al., 2014). This presentation will analyze the best practices in the geoscience community so far and summarize a few recommendations to reduce the negative impacts of ontology dynamics in a data life cycle, including: communities of practice and collaboration on ontology and vocabulary building, link data records to standardized terms, and methods for (semi-)automatic reworking of datasets using semantic technologies.


Flouris, G., Manakanatas, D., Kondylakis, H., Plexousakis, D., Antoniou, G., 2008. Ontology change: classification and survey. The Knowledge Engineering Review 23 (2), 117-152.

Ma, X., Fox, P., Rozell, E., West, P., Zednik, S., 2014. Ontology dynamics in a data life cycle: Challenges and recommendations from a Geoscience Perspective. Journal of Earth Science 25 (2), 407-412.

Mascarelli, A.L., 2009. Quaternary geologists win timescale vote. Nature 459, 624.