On September 11, Juli and I attended an all-day workshop on “New Dimensions in Knowledge Organization Systems,” jointly sponsored by CENDI and the NKOS (Networked Knowledge Organization Systems/Services) Working Group. (CENDI describes itself as “an interagency working group of senior scientific and technical information managers from 13 U.S. federal agencies[, whose] mission is to help improve the productivity of federal science- and technology-based programs through effective scientific, technical, and related information-support systems.” NKOS describes itself as “a community of . . . practitioners . . . interested in the use of knowledge organization systems in networked environments.”) The workshop was hosted by the World Bank. (Security procedures at the Bank were tight, but the opportunity to meet in such a stunning location was well worth it. For one thing, there aren’t too many places in Washington, D.C., where you can view the city from the 13th floor. For another, the conference room where we met sported a huge table [capable of seating at least 30] with individual microphones and voting facilities at each seat, hinting at the significance of the meetings more commonly held there.)
The program (which includes links to the presentations) was evenly split between talks on knowledge organization systems and knowledge organization services. Of particular interest on the systems side were talks by Sue Ellen Wright on a typology for knowledge representation resources (and related standards), and by Ed Summers and Jon Phipps on SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization Systems). Of particular interest on the services side were talks by Diane Vizine-Goetz on OCLC’s terminology services, by Marcia Lei Zeng on metadata for terminology resources, and by Frank Olken on an initiative to build a registry for open-source ontologies. (“Of particular interest” means that much of general applicability can be gleaned from the slides alone.)
An important take-home message from such a workshop is that much work is being done to make knowledge organization systems interoperable. This includes, on the one hand, projects that build mappings between two (or sometimes more) specific knowledge organization systems. It also includes, on the other hand, resources for representing knowledge organization systems using shared formats, so that proprietary representation systems do not serve as barriers to knowledge sharing. These efforts address both syntactic and semantic interoperability. But—extending the linguistic analogy—what we aspire to ultimately is pragmatic interoperability.
Another take-home message is that there is room at the table for many players, and active involvement in interoperability efforts is encouraged. For example, a third draft of the SKOS Reference document is now available, on which the W3C Semantic Web Deployment Working Group seeks comment.