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An Update on the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus

Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 16:39

This article is posted on behalf of Katie Frey, a librarian at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics:

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 with an interest in classifying astronomical concepts.

A website 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 browser, 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 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-1 release.

Another step we have taken has been to reach out to other groups that work with thesauri, notably the AgroVoc and EuroVoc efforts in the UN and Europe. Both use an open-source management platform called VocBench to maintain their thesauri, and we have benefited from all these projects.

Currently we are working with a small group of astronomers and astrophysicists who had previously expressed interest in becoming part of the editorial 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 our Google Group.

Christopher Biemesderfer
Director of Publishing
American Astronomical Society