Web standards support science data

Dr Simon Cox1

1CSIRO Land and Water, Clayton South, Australia


The science community has developed many models for representation of scientific data and knowledge. For example, the biomedical communities OBO Foundry federates applications covering various aspects of life sciences, which are united through reference to a common foundational ontology (BFO). The SWEET ontology, originally developed at NASA and now governed through ESIP, is a single large unified ontology for earth and environmental sciences. On a smaller scale, GeoSciML provides a UML and corresponding XML representation of geological mapping and observation data.

Key concepts related to scientific data and observations have now been incorporated into domain-neutral ontologies developed by the World Wide Web consortium. OWL-Time has been enhanced to support temporal reference systems needed for science, and deployed in a linked data representation of the geologic timescale. The Semantic Sensor Network ontology (SSN) has been extended to cover samples and sampling, including relationships between samples. Specific extensions for science are being added to the Data Catalog vocabulary (DCAT) used by data repositories such as RDA and CSIRO-DAP.

These standard vocabularies can be used directly for science data, or can provide a bridge to specialized domain ontologies. The W3C vocabularies support cross-disciplinary applications directly. The W3C vocabularies are aligned with the core ontologies that are the building blocks of the semantic web. The W3C vocabularies are hosted on well known, reliable infrastructure, and are being selectively adopted by the general schema.org discovery framework.


Simon has been researching standards for publication and transfer of earth and environmental science data since the emergence of the world wide web. Starting in geophysics and mineral exploration, he has engaged with most areas of environmental science, including water resources, marine data, meteorology, soil, ecology and biodiversity. He is principal- or co-author of a number of international standards, including Geography Markup Language, and Observations & Measurements, that have been broadly adopted in Australia and Internationally. The value of these is in enabling data from multiple origins and disciplines to be combined more effectively, which is essential in tackling most contemporary problems in science and society. His current work focuses on aligning science information with the semantic web technologies and linked open data principles, and the formalization, publication and maintenance of controlled vocabularies and similar reference data.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.
© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd