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.

Best,
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.

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.

Update on the UAT

I just realized it had been a while since my last update!  I’ve been working on the UAT behind the scenes quite a bit lately, though most of it has not been visible so I thought it would be a good time to write another update email.

We’re nearly ready to launch VocBench: After looking at various tools, we landed on VocBench, an open source platform for managing and editing controlled vocabularies.  We’ve spent the last few months getting it ready to go, and we are almost ready to make it public.
This platform will allow users to suggest edits and updates to the UAT, which are then assigned to our team of editors for review, and suggestions that are accepted will be incorporated into a future release.

Recent updates to the UAT website: I spent some time re-organizing the website to make visible some items that have previously been buried.  For example, now you will see the Contribute button right in the menu bar!  For now this button takes you to our contribution form, but once VocBench it launched, it will go there instead.
Also, the download section is no longer hidden under the Thesaurus button.  From there you can download the current RDF file as well as a new flat CSV file.  I’ve also included a link to the UAT GitHub repository, where I’ve been hard at work creating scripts to turn the RDF/SKOS file into the website browsers.

Posters and papers: Alberto Accomazzi, et al, wrote a paper about the UAT project, following a poster he presented at the ADASS XXIII conference.  Currently the paper can be found in arXiv, but it will also be published in an upcoming volume of the ASP Conference Proceedings.
Another poster on the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus was presented in June at the Libraries and Information Services in Astronomy conference, with an upcoming paper also scheduled to be published in a future volume of the ASP Conference Proceedings.

We’re still looking for volunteers to help oversee various branches of the UAT!  If you’re interested in becoming an editor, please let me know.

New Thesaurus Created for the Astronomy Community

The following press release was originally posted by IOP Publishing.

Joint news announcement from: The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System, the American Astronomical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics John G. Wolbach library, IOP Publishing, and the International Virtual Observatory Alliance.

New thesaurus created for the astronomy community
24 Jan 2013
Bristol, UK

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) and IOP Publishing (IOP) have jointly announced the gift of a new astronomy thesaurus called the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT) to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) that will help improve future information discovery for researchers.

The AAS will make the UAT freely available for development and use within the astronomy community, while ensuring the thesaurus remains relevant and useful. Further development of the UAT will be undertaken by the John G. Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in collaboration with the Astrophysics Data System (ADS) and the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) to enhance and extend the thesaurus to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the astronomy community.

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