What’s new with the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

The Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT) is an open, interoperable, and community-supported thesaurus of astronomical and astrophysical concepts and their relationships. It unifies existing divergent and isolated astronomy and astrophysics vocabularies into a single high-quality, freely-available online thesaurus available to publishers, authors, and everyone else an interest in classifying astronomical concepts.

A website (http://astrothesaurus.org) was launched in early 2013 where the UAT can be found in support of these goals. There are three different ways to explore the UAT:
1) a hierarchy browser which shows the terms in context, and lets you drill down through the various branches;
2) an alphabetical browse which can make it easy to discover information on a particular term without knowing beforehand where it might be located in the structure, and
3) a dendrogram, or tree graph, which visually lays out the UAT and lets you expand and collapse terms to to explore the relationships between words.

Additionally, the UAT is available for download in several formats, including RDF and CSV. Please note, however, that since the UAT is still in beta, we expect many changes in the content of the thesaurus before our official version one release.

A second step forward that we have taken has been to reach out to other groups that work with thesauri, specifically AgroVoc and EuroVoc. Both use an open source management platform called VocBench (developed by FAO specifically for ArgroVoc) to maintain and edit their thesauri. The developers of VocBench have aided our group in setting up an in-house trial to test the solution for the development and maintenance of the UAT.

This platform allows multiple users to log in and suggest changes to the UAT, and it also does an excellent job of catching a detailed change history, maintaining the provenance of the term, and tracking where suggestions are originating from. Suggestions made by users of the UAT will be accepted or rejected by our subject specialist editors, then the stewarding librarian will release these changes at regular intervals in versioned batches.

Currently, we are working with a small group of astronomers and astrophysicists who had previously expressed interest in becoming part of the editor team. We will be giving them access to the UAT on the VocBench platform, which will allow them to test the interface and begin making suggestions to improve the UAT. Assuming all goes well, we hope to allow public access to VocBench in 2014. In the meantime, if you wish to view the UAT, you may peruse online browsers at the UAT website or download thesaurus files. Suggestions for the UAT may also be made using the new “Contribute Form” on the website. Comments submitted in this manner will be forwarded to our team of editors for further discussion and inclusion in VocBench.

To express your interest in contributing to the UAT, in developing the UAT, or just to join in the discussion, please join the Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/uat-users