Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT) Integration in ADS Search and Discovery

Cross posted from the ADS Blog.

Alberto Accomazzi (ADS Principal Investigator), Jenny Novacescu (Space Telescope Science Institute), Katie Frey (Center for Astrophysics & UAT Curator), and Pavlos Protopapas (Harvard University)

The ADS Team is working in collaboration with Pavlos Protopapas and Ben Yuen of Harvard University to pilot the integration of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT) into ADS search and discovery for new, future, and legacy literature. ADS users will be able to browse results using left side facets in the query results screen, or conduct an initial search using UAT terms.

An example search query in ADS. The example query is: full:”super Earth” property:refereed
Example search results from ADS, showing UAT concepts as a facet query on the left side.
The same example search query in ADS as before, but now it includes filtering on a UAT concept. The example query is: full:”super Earth” property:refereed uat:”high contrast techniques”

While it is currently possible to search ADS by keywords provided by publishers, there is no single vocabulary that has been consistently used throughout the indexed literature in ADS. The Astronomical Subject Keywords that had been in use by leading astronomy journals since the 1970s hasn’t been updated since 2013, and may not cover the latest topics in the field. The ‘Keywords’ also do not include definitions or relationships between concepts. For this reason, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) journals and the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP) elected to adopt the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus as its keyword system of choice in 2019 and 2020, respectively.  

The UAT is an open, interoperable, and community-supported project which formalizes astronomical concepts and their inter-relationships into a well-curated, freely available open resource. It reconciled divergent and isolated vocabularies from the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, such as the IAU Thesaurus, the Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme, the Astronomy Subject Keywords, and others. The UAT’s primary mission is to support semantic enrichment of the literature, thereby enabling greater search and discovery across the astrophysics literature. In addition, the UAT is being used as a taxonomy with which to label other astronomical research products, such as software and datasets.

The ADS Team’s goal is to promote the use of UAT concepts as a standard way to describe and discover records in its astronomy collection. Ben Yuen, working under the supervision of Protopapas, is using machine learning techniques to automatically assign UAT terms to the majority of records in ADS which do not have them, such as the legacy literature. In order to produce accurate results, the system is being trained on the corpus of AAS articles which currently have UAT concepts associated with them. Validation of the results through editorial input and user feedback will be used to improve the automated process. 

This pilot program is beneficial to all of ADS, as it provides a single, up-to-date set of concepts that can be used to identify all current research topics of interest to astronomers. The team intends to extend the system to use concepts drawn from other controlled vocabularies for subject areas outside the core astronomy collection. (To learn more about ADS’ recent expansion, which encompasses Planetary Science and Heliophysics literature, and will in future include Earth Science, and Biological & Physical Sciences view our earlier blog post: https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/blog/arc-ssad-project). Development and testing of this prototype are ongoing. The ADS Team expects to release this capability in production by December 2023.

As ADS adopts use of the UAT across its astronomy collection, we encourage all astronomy and astrophysics publishers to use the thesaurus as its article keyword system to facilitate integration of this content into future ADS search and discovery. As more journals and research products – such as datasets, software, and proposals – are tagged with UAT terms, the ability to search, browse, and crosslink all of these resources by science topic will increase.

While the AAS has assumed formal ownership of the UAT, the thesaurus remains available under a Creative Commons License, ensuring its widest use while protecting the intellectual property of its contributors. Development and maintenance are stewarded by a broad group of parties with a direct stake in the UAT; this includes professional associations (IVOA, IAU), learned societies (AAS, RAS), publishers (IOP, AIP), software developers, librarians and other curators working for major astronomy institutes and data archives.

The UAT has been implemented by an increasing number of journals, research organizations, and systems. Current adoptees include:

  • American Astronomical Society journals, including The Astronomical Journal (AJ), The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), ApJS, ApJL, The Planetary Science Journal (PSJ), and Research Notes of the AAS (RNAAS)
  • Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
  • Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP)
  • International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA)
  • Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) proposal systems
  • WikiData
  • Icarus – in formulation for 2023

UAT Steering Committee Call for Nominations 2023–2025

The Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT) is an open, interoperable, and community-supported project which formalizes astronomical concepts and their inter-relationships into a high-quality, freely available open resource. Its mission is to enable greater search and discovery across the astrophysics literature, as well as a taxonomy that can be used to label other research products, such as software and datasets. The UAT has been implemented by an increasing number of journals, research organizations, and systems*, including the American Astronomical Society and the JWST proposal system. It is currently being integrated into the Astrophysics Data System (ADS).

The Steering Committee (SC) sets the general parameters for the overall direction of the UAT and is composed of representatives from groups with a direct stake in the development and success of the UAT. Members of the SC also serve as representatives of the UAT, promoting it to global astronomy, astrophysics, library, and publishing communities, developing test cases, and increasing its overall use. More information about the Steering Committee is available on the UAT website. We welcome nominees from all regions of the world, with a specific interest in adding international and in particular Southern Hemisphere representation.

We welcome expressions of interest from astronomers, developers, data scientists, researchers, librarians, and others. The commitment is a two-year term (Feb 2023 – Feb 2025) and includes monthly SC meetings. New members can renew annually after their initial two-year term, up to a total of five years of membership. Please contact Jenny Novacescu, current chair of the UAT SC, with “UAT Steering Committee” in the subject line, to express your interest or to ask questions.

* Current adoptees include:

  1. American Astronomical Society journals, including The Astronomical Journal (AJ), The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), ApJS, ApJL, The Planetary Science Journal (PSJ), and Research Notes of the AAS (RNAAS)
  2. Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
  3. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (PASP)
  4. International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA)
  5. Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and JWST proposal systems
  6. WikiData

The closing date is 20 January 2023.

(Cross posted from AAS News.)

UAT API url update

This post is meant for users of the UAT Linked Data API hosted by ARDC. If you do not actively the API directly, no action is needed.

On November 5th the current domain name used by the Linked Data API (vocabs.ands.org.au) will cease to function and queries to the Linked Data API will need to use the new domain name (vocabs.ardc.edu.au) instead.

If you only use UAT URIs (e.g. https://astrothesaurus.org/uat/1234) then no change is needed.  We have updated the URI redirect to point to the new domain for the Linked Data API.

However, if you are making queries directly to the Linked Data API you will need to change to the new domain name in your scripts.

For example, if you are searching for a concept that has “photometry” in any label, you might use an API call like this:

By November 5th, the domain name in the API call needs to be updated like this:

Please reach out to the UAT Steering Committee if you have any questions.

Update from the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

This was originally posted on AAS Nova, written by Susanna Kohler , 12 February 2021.

Remember the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus? The UAT is an open, interoperable, and community-supported project that formalizes astronomical concepts and their inter-relationships into a high quality, freely available open resource. This resource can then be used to tag astronomical work — like articles, proposals, and datasets — with accurate, broadly adopted concepts.

The UAT has taken off in the year since we last reported on it! AAS journals have all moved entirely to using the more flexible and dynamic UAT in place the old, static keyword system. In addition, adoption is increasing across the broader astronomical community: the UAT has been implemented by the AAS journals, the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the International Virtual Observatory Alliance, the proposal system for the Hubble Space Telescope, and WikiData.

This week brings two news items from the UAT:

  1. An opportunity to join the UAT Steering Committee
  2. An update on the newest release of the UAT.

A Quick Refresher

Why is the UAT so cool? Simply put, organizing information is hard — but the UAT has provided a much-needed modern update for astronomy. Old systems of static keywords fail to capture the multidimensional nature of how concepts can relate to each other. When using the UAT to select keywords for their work, now, authors have access to a much broader range of suggestions that allow them to more accurately reflect what their work is about. 

An example: suppose I’m writing an article on spiral galaxies. If I enter this concept into the UAT, the Thesaurus knows that spiral galaxies fall under the parent concept of disk galaxies, and it also knows that Andromeda is a specific example of a spiral galaxy. What’s more, it’s aware that spiral galaxies are also referred to as S galaxies, and that the topic might come up in the related concept of the Hubble galaxy classification scheme.

Screenshot shows result of entering "spiral galaxies" into the UAT.
The UAT entry for the concept “spiral galaxies” includes broader and narrower concepts, alternate terms, related concepts, and a definition.

The relationships charted within the UAT make it much easier for me to select the concepts that best describe the article I’m writing, the UAT’s living and adaptable nature allows it to keep up with changing times, and universal adoption of the UAT will greatly simplify the organization of information across platforms.

Become a UAT Steering Committee Member!

Are you convinced that this is a cool concept? Want to help shape the future development of the UAT? The UAT Steering Committee is seeking a new member.

The Steering Committee (SC) sets the general parameters for the overall direction of the UAT and is composed of representatives from groups with a direct stake in the development and success of the Thesaurus. Members of the SC also serve as representatives of the UAT, promoting it to global astronomy and astrophysics, library, and publishing communities; developing test cases; and increasing its overall use.

The UAT currently welcomes expressions of interest in the open SC position from astronomers, researchers, librarians, and others. The commitment is a two-year term and includes monthly SC meetings. You can contact the chair of the UAT SC, Barbara Kern, with “UAT Steering Committee” in the subject line to express your interest or to ask any questions. [Note: This year’s call for interest closed February 2021 –Katie Frey]

What’s New in the Latest UAT Update

In December 2020, Version 4.0.0 of the UAT was released to the worldwide astronomical community.

UAT v.4.0.0 added nearly 50 new concepts in the areas of planetary science and exoplanets and also added definitions — largely sourced from the Etymological Dictionary of Astronomy and Astrophysics — for about 40% of all existing concepts for the first time. For examples of concept definitions, see the image above for the spiral galaxies concept or view the file for baryonic dark matter. More accompanying definitions are expected in future releases.

A number of technical updates were also implemented in v.4.0.0. Deprecated concepts can now be found in the UAT GitHub repository, and there are multiple json files to choose from if implementing the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus in your local systems. For comprehensive v.4.0.0 release notes, visit https://astrothesaurus.org/blog/.

Where to Learn More

Flowchart-style diagram shows relationship between terms when "exoplanet" is entered into the UAT sorting tool.
Example of the visualization possible using the UAT sorting tool.

Version 4.0.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Today, we release version 4.0.0 of the UAT!

Updates and Changes

In addition to the usual updates and additions to concepts found in the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, this update also brings with it some minor technical changes and updates that will hopefully help developers who are interested in implementing the UAT into their tools and platforms.

The largest content change this time would be the addition of over 850 definitions to UAT concept.  A few people have been asking for these for a while, and this was finally the year to make some good headway on this.  Almost all of these initial definitions were sourced from the Etymological Dictionary of Astronomy and Astrophysics, with a few being supplemented from other sources.  Definitions for the remaining two-thirds of UAT concepts will be coming in future releases as they can be sourced and vetted.

About 50 concepts were added, while about 25 were deprecated, bringing us to a total of 2122 concepts.  The additional concepts are mostly concentrated in the “Planetary science” branch, with some spill over into exoplanets.  Alternate labels, scope notes, and examples were also added to over 100 concepts, all of which improve usage of the UAT in automated systems.

Which leads me to those technical updates I mentioned earlier.  Deprecated concepts can now be found in the UAT_deprecatedConcepts.rdf file.  More usefully, I’ve gone back through that list of deprecated concepts and added “Use instead” notes for every single one, pointing back to one or more concepts that could be used in lieu of the original concept.  These notes are found as “changeNotes” in UAT_skosnotes.rdf.

As many developers (including myself) prefer working with json, I’ve also expanded the files available in that format.

  1. UAT.json should be compatible with systems that had been using the prior version of this file.  It contains the full UAT organized into a hierarchy, but now it contains a lot more information about each concept, including definitions, other notes, and related links.  It also has a section to list all the deprecated concepts and their suggested redirects.
  2. UAT_simple.json this is an updated version of the older UAT.json file.  It only includes the concepts and their URIs in a hierarchy.  I don’t expect this file to be very useful, but it’s here if anyone needs to work with a slimmed down file.
  3. UAT_list.json would be great if you need to look up information for a specific concept and don’t want to navigate through the whole hierarchy to find it.  Similar to UAT.json, this file contains all information available about each concept, but nothing is nested, and the deprecated concepts are listed right along with the active concepts.

Presentations and Events

In addition to our usual presence at the AAS Annual meeting, the UAT was visible at a few other events this year.

Stewardship and Impact of a Thesaurus for the Astronomy Community

I gave a poster presentation at the Special Libraries Association conference over the summer.  The poster and presentation recording along with additional information from that event can be found here.

Powered by the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Last year, Frank Timmes recorded four short videos introducing the UAT to the astronomy community.  This summer I followed up with him and we recorded three longer format videos discussing how to use the UAT, how authors can influence the uat, and how the UAT has been used in publications so far.  All seven videos in this series can be found in this playlist on YouTube.

Unified Astronomy Thesaurus Informational Webinar

Speakers from IVOA, STScI, AAS, and ADS presented on their implementations, current and planned, of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus.  Slides are available here, and a video recording of the session should be added shortly.

Concluding Remarks

The Steering Committee wishes to thank those from the astronomy community who took the time to contribute feedback for improving the UAT.  We also wish to thank the American Astronomical Society for continuing to support the growth of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, especially the editors who provided feedback for proposed changes.

Katie Frey
UAT Curator

Updates to Versioning and Release Cycle Documents

While preparing the UAT v.3.1.0 release, it became apparent that the existing versioning and release documentation did not fit the workflow for the UAT. Reflecting on the UAT releases in the three years since this guidance was originally written, we’ve produced updated documents that align better with the versioning and release cycle of the UAT.

The UAT will continue to use version numbers inspired by Semantic Versioning, but features such as tracking backwards compatibility and functionality that are of core importance to software packages do not apply to data products such as the UAT. As such, the guidelines for deciding what constitutes a major, minor, or patch release has been re-written to better reflect the actual process of releasing new versions of the UAT.

Likewise, the Release Cycle has spun off into its own document, and has been greatly expanded to include a schedule based on the real work of updating the UAT over the last few years. The hope is that this Release Cycle document can help inform authors and users of the UAT about the process of updating the UAT, while the Curator will be able to use it to help guide how suggestions are evaluated and to alert the community of upcoming changes in a timely manner.

We expect these Versioning and Release Cycle documents will be revisited and revised in the future as needed.

Version 3.1.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Today, we launched version 3.1.0 of the UAT!

This year has been an exciting one for the UAT; on June 3rd, the American Astronomical Society formally incorporated the UAT into its journal submission process.  The UAT has also been included in the most recent call for proposals for the Hubble Space Telescope. This uptake in usage and adoption has brought the UAT to the forefront of the community’s attention and, as a result, we have received fantastic and thoughtful suggestions submitted by authors and researchers looking for a better way to describe their work.  This update reflects many of those suggestions and we are looking forward to another great year of interaction with the astronomical community as we strive to improve the UAT.

Overall, the 3.1.0 update focuses on fleshing out two areas in particular (“Comets” and “Gravitational lensing”) as well as bringing a host of corrections and updates.  In total, 54 concepts were added to the UAT, 7 concepts were deprecated, the preferred label of 18 concepts were updated, and 51 alternative labels for concepts were added.  Preparing the 3.1.0 release has also given me a deeper appreciation for how the field of astronomy has changed and evolved over time.

As our understanding of the universe grows and changes, the words we use to describe that universe also grow and change.  For example, before we were able to bring galaxies into focus and understand what they were, astronomers used to consider galaxies as nebulous regions.  As our common understanding about the universe changed, as we were able to build better telescopes, and learn better methods of analyzing information, it became clear that some of these “nebulae” were actually full of many stars, and that they existed outside of our galaxy…and eventually we discovered they were galaxies in their own right.  As great as this story is, it doesn’t have a lot of modern resonance as most of us grew up knowing that there are other galaxies.

Occurrences such as these have become rare, and yet I found myself working through one as I prepared for the 3.1.0 release.  It all started when Dr. Dan Seaton from the University of Colorado commented on an Issue about Solar coronal regions that he “[did] not know what the M corona is supposed to be referring to.”  My first task was to figure out what the concept could be about, where did it come from, and why was it in the UAT in the first place.  I dug into the source vocabularies, discovering that the concept “M region” existed in both the IAU Thesaurus and the IVO Thesaurus. With those thesauri backing the concept up, it felt like it must have had some kind of scientific source.  So I ran a search in ADS for “M region” which yielded a very inconclusive results set of articles spanning oceanic fronts to magnetic fields to mud volcanoes to planetary nebulae.

Hoping to find relevant articles, I narrowed my search to “Solar M regions,” and, even with only 21 results, I could immediately tell I was on the right track.  Reading through the abstract, most of these articles seemed to be about the geomagnetic field, the aurora, or the Solar magnetic field… concepts that were at least a bit more connected than the previous search results.  The earliest article in the result list was from 1941, and even that refers to an earlier identification of Solar M regions.  The mystery deepened! Even though the concept seemed unheard of today, it clearly had been something in the recent past.  Twenty of the 21 articles identified by ADS were published between 1940 and 1980, with a single non-refereed reference in 2003.

It was an article from 1975 titled “The solar M-region problem – An old problem now facing its solution?” which finally solved the mystery.  In this article, Dr. Arild Gulbrandsen writes “….the solar M-regions should be identified with the central portion of magnetically open solar regions, or coronal holes.” I had found an answer: Solar M regions are now something astronomers identify as coronal holes! Both Dr. Seaton and Dr. Leon Golub (AAS Solar editor) agreed with my assessment.

In this release of the UAT the historical “Solar coronal M regions” concept was deprecated and merged into the already existent “Solar coronal holes” concept and now I have modern and tangible example of how our knowledge of astronomy has grown, changed, and evolved in modern language.

The Steering Committee wishes to thank those who took the time to make suggestions for improving the UAT. We also wish to thank the AAS for continuing to support the growth of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, especially  the editors who provided feedback for proposed changes.

As I close out this update, I want to draw attention to the Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct recently added to the UAT.  This is an open project and I want to emphasize that it is welcoming to all regardless of age, body size, visible or invisible disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation.  I am looking forward to working with the diverse astronomical community to continue improving the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus throughout the coming year and beyond!

Katie Frey
UAT Curator

Unified Astronomy Thesaurus v.3.1.0 Release Notes Summary

Version 3.1.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus consists of a polyhierarchy with 2097 concepts, 11 top concepts, a depth of 11 levels, with 586 related concept links.

 Release Date: 12/20/2019 

Overview of Changes

  • Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct has been added.
  • Minor revisions of two branches:
    • Gravitational lensing
    • Comets
  • Added 54 new concepts.
  • Deprecated 7 concepts.
  • The preferred label of 18 concepts were updated to add context, clarity, and consistency.
  • Added or updated AltLabels for 51 concepts, remove AltLabels for 4 concepts.
  • Added 1 definition and 4 scope notes.
  • Added 52 new related links, removed 8 related links.
  • Resolves Issues in Milestone Colrada.

The UAT is available for download on GitHub. For a detailed list of changes, see the full release notes.

Version 3.0.0 is available now!

Version 3.0.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

The latest version of the UAT has been released!  Version 3.0.0 brings many changes and updates to the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus.

We heavily reworked the “Stellar astronomy” and “Solar physics” branches to reflect feedback from the community.  The organizational structure of the “Stellar types” section has proved challenging since the beginning of this project.  There are now multiple ways of approaching and organizing the stars, which reflect the myriad ways astronomers think about the topic.  Nearly 40 concepts were added to the “Solar physics” section, which was also renamed from “Solar astronomy.”  Besides adding concepts that describe new topics, we updated many concepts to differentiate between the Sun and the stars more generally.

Another branch that received heavy revision is “Computational astronomy”, as it holds the new sections on “Astronomy software,” “Computational methods,” and “Astronomy data analysis.”  Similarly, we added a new branch in the UAT for “Astrostatistics,” which covers common tools and techniques in that field.  We added these branches to reflect the importance of software, programming, and computational resources in modern day astronomy.

The last major addition to this version of the UAT comes in the “Laboratory astrophysics” branch, which deals with the study of atoms, molecules, plasmas, particles, dust, and ice in the lab.  Research conducted in the lab and theories about these fundamental topics inform astronomers and help them to understand the physical processes that they observer throughout the universe.

We also made many smaller updates and changes, in total adding 258 new concepts to the UAT.  242 new “related concept” links were added throughout the UAT, many of which increased the connections between solar and stellar concepts, and between concepts about the Milky Way galaxy and concepts about other galaxies.  Many specific stellar classes (i.e. T Tauri stars, or ZZ Ceti stars) were re-evaluated and moved to more relevant subsections of the UAT.  Many duplicate concepts were identified and merged.  We made updates and additions to the Alternate labels for over 190 concepts to help increase findability, as well as adding 15 scope notes and 8 definitions to increase clarity.  Finally, we deprecated 51 concepts, mostly due to duplication or low usage in the literature, streamlining sections of the UAT.

The UAT Steering Committee would like to thank the many people who reviewed and contributed the feedback, including Jason Barnes (University of Idaho), Nancy Brickhouse (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Adam Burgasser (UC San Diego), Ed DeLuca (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Eric Feigelson (AAS Editor, Penn State University), Leon Golub (AAS Editor, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Iouli Gordon (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Chris Lintott (AAS Editor, University of Oxford), Aimee Norton (AAS Editor, Stanford University), Jenny Novacescu (Space Telescope Science Institute), Radek Poleski (Ohio State University), Thomas Robitaille (AAS Editor, Astropy), Daniel Savin (AAS Editor, Columbia University), Sarah Weissman (Space Telescope Science Institute), and Henry “Trae” Winter (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), among many others.

The UAT Steering Committee would also like to thank Kelsey Gibson, Katie Jones, and Jaihyun Park for their work building crosswalks between previous thesauri efforts and the UAT.


Unified Astronomy Thesaurus v.3.0.0 Release Notes Summary

Version 3.0.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus consists of a polyhierarchy with 2050 concepts, 11 top concepts, a depth of 11 levels, with 534 related concept links.

Release Date: 9/21/2018

Overview of Changes

  • Added 3 new branches:
    • Astrostatistics
    • Laboratory astrophysics
    • Astronomy software
  • Major revisions of various branches:
    • Stellar astronomy
    • Solar physics
    • Computational astronomy
  • 258 new concepts were added to the UAT.
  • 51 concepts were deprecated.
  • The preferred label of 88 concepts were updated to add context, clarity, and consistency.
  • Added or updated AltLabels for 196 concepts, remove AltLabels for 34 concepts.
  • Added 8 definitions, 15 scope notes, and 1 example.
  • Removed 20 related links, added 242 new related links.
  • Resolves Issues in Milestone Baerlon, Milestone Stellar types reorganization, and Milestone Solar physics updates.

The UAT is available for download on GitHub.
For a detailed list of changes, see the full release notes.


Recently Published Articles

Frey, K.; Accomazzi, A. The Unified Astronomy Thesaurus: Semantic Metadata for Astronomy and Astrophysics. 2018 ApJS 236 24. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4365/aab760

Frey,K; Weissman, S.; Kern, B.; Lagerstrom, J.; Peek, J; Accomazzi, A. Managing Contributions to the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus. EPJ Web Conf., 186 (2018) 09003. https://doi.org/10.1051/epjconf/201818609003


The UAT is an open source project supported by the AAS.

Version 2.0.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Today we are releasing Version 2.0.0 of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus. This release cleans up minor errors, such as duplicate concepts and preferred label consistency. We have also changed all concept IDs to numeric identifiers, a change that will facilitate editing and management of the UAT going forward.

Overview of Changes

  • The UAT was switched from descriptive, human readable concept identifiers to numeric identifiers. This is a rather significant change, and included in the source code download for this version is a mapping from previous identifiers to new identifiers.
  • The preferred label of 79 concepts were updated to add context, clarity, and consistency.
  • 16 new concepts were added to the UAT.
  • 3 concepts were moved from one parent concept to another.
  • 9 concepts were merged into similar concepts to remove duplicates from the UAT.
  • Resolves Issues in GitHub Milestone Arinelle.

For a detailed list of changes, please see the release notes.

Status of the UAT Project

Although the website has been pretty quite, a LOT of work has gone into the UAT since I last posted an update nearly one year ago.  This is a short summary update of the status of the UAT project; expect more details to follow.

1) UAT v1.1.0 Published Online

A few weeks ago we published version 1.1.0 to Research Vocabularies Australia (RVA), a controlled vocabulary discovery service from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).  We’ve been collaborating with ANDS for the better part of 2016 and are happy to have the UAT publicly available on their platform.

From the RVA platform, you can download the full UAT in different file formats, or use the API function to connect the UAT to your applications and websites.


2) UAT Steering Committee

Julie Steffen, Director of Publishing for the American Astronomical Society, has formed a Steering Committee to manage the operation and direction of the UAT.  The Committee meets regularly, about once a month, to discuss topics such as outreach, funding, development, and licensing.

More information about the Committee can be found on the “Governance” page under “About Us.”


3) Versioning, Patch Notes, Deltas

Alberto Accomazzi (SAO/NASA ADS) has been developing a versioning scheme based on the Semantic Versioning standards for the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus.  The existing versions found on GitHub have been renamed to follow the new scheme, and this versioning system will be used moving forward.

A defined versioning system will allow us to post useful patch notes, to describe the kinds of changes that have been made from one update to the next.  Once finalized, the versioning documentation will be made available.

Additionally, we are examining the process of providing deltas (a file containing only the changes from one version to the next) as part of the update cycle.


4) Contribution Tracking & GitHub Issues

A persistent issue for updating and managing the UAT over the years has been keeping track of suggestions, contribution, and the decisions regarding them. Our first temporary solution consisted of emails sent directly to me that I filed away into a folder until I was able to act on them. Unfortunately, this system was equivalent to a black hole. Information goes in, but it’s hard to tell what, if anything, is coming back out.

At a recent Steering Committee meeting, the Issues feature on GitHub was suggested as a way to manage and track the various suggestions. GitHub also has the added benefit of being an open system; anyone can see the current suggestions under discussion and create an account to make a contribution.

A few weeks ago I began the work on transferring comments to the UAT Issues tracker, and I would welcome anyone with a suggestion or idea for the UAT to add it to the list.

More documentation detailing how we will be using the Issue tracker will be forthcoming.


5) Sorting Tool

Over the last year, the Sorting Tool was developed by Sarah Weissman (STScI) and myself as a way to give our users a visual overview of the UAT and make suggestions directly in the hierarchy.

Although this is a very powerful tool, currently the system submits its feedback as an email directly to me, which I plan to duplicate as an Issue on GitHub.  Pushing feedback from the Sorting Tool directly into the Issue tracker is being examined.


6) Website Updates

Updates have been made across the UAT website, focused mainly on cleaning up the existing content and tidying up the navigational menus.

With the addition of the ANDS vocabulary server, I’ve removed the old hierarchical and alphabetical browsers, the UAT Explorer, and the UAT dendrogram view.  These tools were difficult to maintain, requiring manual creation of files and uploads to the website.  The new vocabulary server maintained by ANDS replaces most of those functionalities.

The Governance page has been updated to reflect the Steering Committee, and the Contribute pages now direct users to GitHub and the Sorting Tool.