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AAS Journals Will Start Using New Keywords on June 3rd

Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 11:02

AAS Journals

Starting on June 3rd, the AAS journals will start categorizing articles using concepts from the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus (UAT), replacing the venerable subject keywords system.

Why Is This Changing?

The simplest answer to this question is that the current list of keywords is very old. Its original structure was developed in the 1970s, and the list hasn't been revised since 2013. For well-established fields, the status quo has been OK, but for disciplines like laboratory astrophysics the current categories have been woefully inadequate. The UAT closes many gaps in the old keywords and will be maintained more regularly going forward.

The other important reason to switch to the UAT is that the broader community has agreed to adopt it as a standard. This means that not only the AAS journals, but also other astronomical journals, services like NASA ADS, national observatories, and scientific data centers all plan to use the UAT when categorizing astronomical content. With everyone using the same system, we hope that you'll find that the categorizations you choose suddenly start feeling much more useful than they did before!

It's also true that the UAT is a "better" system in a somewhat more abstract sense — it is maintained by information management professionals, it has clear licensing terms, it is expressed in the standard SKOS model — things like that. These factors do not directly impact authors, but they help explain why journals and archives are eager to adopt the UAT as the unified vocabulary of astronomical concepts.

Where Can I Learn More?

Start with the longer version of this article on the AAS Publishing website.

The UAT website contains lots more information, including news updates, links to the UAT's GitHub organization, its API, and more! We particularly want to emphasize that the UAT is a living project — your contributions are most welcome. In particular, if you feel that a concept is missing, please suggest its addition to the next version of the UAT by filing an issue on GitHub.

Peter K. G. Williams
AAS Innovation Scientist & Director, AAS WorldWide Telescope Project
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
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