3rd Workshop on Catalogue of Data Sources and Thesaurus

Copenhagen, 16-17 September 1996

Consistency of Terminology and Coding -
A Progress Report on CB 4/ETC/CDS of the EEA

Gerhard Budin, ISEP, Vienna

  1. Motivation and Necessity of CB4
  2. What is "Terminology and Coding"?
  3. What is the Difference to the Thesaurus?
  4. Results Achieved and Ongoing Work
  5. Call for Participation in EIONET-wide cooperation

  1. Motivation and Necessity of CB 4, "Consistency of Terminology and Coding"

    While this task is included in the official Multi-Annual Work Programme of the EEA (1994-1999) and is an approved work item of the ETC/CDS Technical Annex, doubts have been voiced recently concerning its necessity for EIONET. Let us take this occasion to clarify this:

    CB 4 is a horizontal task in EIONET to facilitate harmonization of terminologies and of coding systems across language barriers (multilingual dimension) and across subject-field border lines (interdisciplinary dimension), in particular in such a dynamic and multi-faceted area as environment.

    This harmonization is a prerequisite for efficient interoperability of environmental databases in the EIONET framework and for comparability of quantitative (statistical) and qualitative data as well as meta data.

  2. What is "Terminology and Coding"?
  3. A terminology is the structured set of concepts and corresponding terms or graphical symbols in natural languages) of any given subject field.

    Thus every terminology is the key to the (practical and theoretical) knowledge contained therein and is thus the main aspect of professional communication. Obviously, the practical use of environmental information systems and discourse among environmental experts would be impossible or at least severely hampered without the consistent use of environmental terminologies.

    Important parts of such terminologies are organized in the form of coding systems that are used to fill environmental databases in a coherent and consistent way.

    Such coding lists include (among others) officially recognized and harmonized (on international and/or European levels, but also on regional and national levels) classification systems and nomenclatures (e.g. on land cover, biodiversity, waste, water, soil, chemical substances, etc.). Another important part of coding are finite and predetermined datasets (data dictionaries) for database input.

    (For some examples see Annex)

  4. What is the Difference to the Thesaurus?
  5. A thesaurus is an indexing and retrieval tool for pieces of information. It is a controlled documentary language that is extracted (as a subset) from a much larger resource, i.e. the whole terminology of a subject field (in the languages concerned) for use in a particular information system).

    The Thesaurus currently prepared in CB5 will be used in conjunction with the CDS of the EEA.

    Yet a (multilingual) thesaurus is neither a dictionary, nor a lexicon or any other terminology collection that would contain detailed conceptual information or would focus on problems of multilingual equivalences. Therefore it is common practice to maintain a terminology database with several functions, in our case in EIONET to serve as:

    • a database for everybody who wants to know what a particular term in a certain language means (combining linguistic and subject knowledge, but depending on user group specific needs and interests)

    • an information repository for thesaurus construction (in particular: interlingual equivalences, definitions of concepts, conceptual relationships, etc.)

    • a harmonizing reference tool for the coding lists (to be) used in EIONET databases

  6. Results achieved and ongoing work
  7. Task description Status
    Directory of Terminological Resources version 1 available
    Directory of Coding Systems in progress
    Strategy for Consistent Terminology in EIONET version 1 available
    Work Manual version 1 available
    Strategy for and Evaluation of Consistent Coding in EIONET in progress
    in progress
    Prototype of Terminology and Coding Database version 0.1 available
      Data model
    version 1.1 available
      Demonstration database
      Data Population and Management Strategy
    WWW access in progress
      Conformance with ISO 12200 and ISO 12620
    in progress
    Co-operation and co-ordination With EEA and LO of ETC/CDS ongoing
    Terminology Support to CB5 start October 1996
    Liaison to CB3 and CB11 concerning Coding in progress
    Liaison to the other ETCs in progress
    Contacting other EIONET elements start October 1996

  8. Call for Participation in EIONET-wide Cooperation
  9. It is evident that consistency and coherence in EIONET databases and in networking can only be reached if relevant institutions and persons actively cooperate. This cooperation takes place in their own interest, since everybody can expect synergy effects for him- or herself in their own work, according to specific user needs.

    Starting by January 15, 1997, an Internet-based discussion list will be operated and moderated that will function as an electronic bulletin board forum to

    • solve specific problems of interlingual equivalence of environmental concepts and terms,
    • eliminate inconsistencies, and
    • harmonize conflicting and incompatible usage of terminologies across different subfields and applications, etc.

For detailed information please contact:

ISEP (International Society for Environmental Protection):
ETC/CDS Technical Secretariat
Address: Marxergasse 3/20, A-1030 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-715 28 28-0
Fax: +43-1-715 28 28-19
General information: Michaela Arndorfer
Technical details: Gerhard Budin

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