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LTER Controlled Vocabulary Workshop Planned

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Spring 2013

John Porter (VCR)

In 2011, the LTER Controlled Vocabulary Working Group made substantial progress toward the goal of making LTER data available, efficiently and reliably, through searching or browsing.  Milestones included creating a thesaurus of over 600 keywords ( With support from the LTER Network Office, the thesaurus was used to automatically enhance searches on the LTER Data Portal by automatically searching for synonyms and narrower terms. Data browsing was also enhanced by implementing a more complete browse interface.  The group also produced a series of technical resources that can be used by LTER sites and researchers (  These resources include tools for suggesting keywords (based on scanning documents), graphical viewers for the LTER Controlled Vocabulary, and a variety of web services that support searching, such as autocomplete-pull-down lists.  The LTER Controlled Vocabulary was also fully integrated into EnvThes thesaurus being developed by the European ILTER, and PASTA is also incorporating improved search technologies that rely on the thesaurus.  

On May 21 and 22, 2013 a new Controlled Vocabulary Working Group workshop will be held in Oyster, Virginia, with several goals, the most important of which will be to enhance the controlled vocabulary by adding new terms. To prepare for the workshop, several LTER Information Managers have been tasked with identifying new terms. Thus far, 203 additional terms have been proposed. They will be evaluated at the workshop and recommendations will be forwarded to the entire LTER Information Management Committee for adding terms. Eda Melendez, Jason Downing, and Don Henshaw queried the LTER sites for additional terms that sites would like to propose for addition to the LTER Controlled Vocabulary. Additionally, M. Gastil-Buhl has been mining the Metacat archive to identify additional terms that are widely used but not yet part of the vocabulary, while Duane Costa has provided a list of terms commonly entered by users to search the LTER Data Portal. In a related effort, Corinna Gries has been examining other sources for terms that were excluded from the original LTER Controlled Vocabulary, specifically for taxonomic terms and place names. The plan is to keep these separate from the LTER Controlled Vocabulary, because they may best be used at other places in the metadata than the keywords section. Margaret O’Brien, Kristin Vanderbilt, and Jason Downing have been working on providing definitions for each of the terms already in the Controlled Vocabulary. The plan is to create a semi-automated method of populating these definitions that will take advantage of existing web services for definitions, but also allow customization in the event that words used by ecologists differ from those in other areas of life. 

Another goal of the workshop will be to get a group together to discuss possible additional uses for the LTER Controlled Vocabulary. It has already become clear that the LTER Controlled Vocabulary can have additional uses. Through its relationship with EnvThes, the vocabulary has been used to implement a prototype multilingual searching system ( However, there may be other valuable uses for the vocabulary that extend beyond the finding of datasets, and this discussion will explore those options. In addition to Information Managers at the workshop, there will also be librarians concerned with meeting the requirements of the new NSF Data Management Plans, who may be able to provide additional insights regarding the construction and use of the LTER Controlled Vocabulary.