The heavily used ISO thesaurus standards are now about 35 years old and their last revisions took place more than twenty years ago. Since roughly a year ago, an international working group (WG 8 Structured Vocabularies) under the ISO TC46/SC9 committee “Identification and Description”, is developing a common new standard under the title “ISO 25964 Thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies”.
The basic principles of how to build, maintain and use a thesaurus and, especially, the function of such a controlled vocabulary, might not have changed significantly. The technology, scale of application and especially the new context of the digital world and the Internet are radically different, however.
Modern tools are needed to access networked information resources by topic and to prepare for Semantic Web. Rather traditional Knowledge Organization tools have shown to carry considerable benefits in this new environment.
Prior updates to the original ISO standards (ISO 2788 monolingual thesauri and ISO 5964 multilingual thesauri) have been taking place in US and UK national standards. NISO has updated the US national standard for monolingual thesauri ANSI/NISO Z39.19 more frequently, especially with the latest version 2005 (available at ). Seven years of work in the UK resulted in BS 8723, published in five parts between 2005 and 2008 (print for a fee, copyright). The latter effort is the main basis for the work with the new ISO standard, again under the leadership of Stella Dextre Clarke as convenor.
New content, structure and scope
All of the existing scope of the two earlier ISO standards will be retained and revised, and the following additional subjects will be added, what to a large degree already has happened in the new British Standard:
- Function (and display) of thesauri in electronic environments
- Functional specification for software to manage thesauri
- Data model for a thesaurus
- Formats and protocols for exchange of thesaurus data
- Guidelines for certain additional types of vocabulary (e.g. classification schemes, taxonomies)
- Interoperability and mapping between vocabularies
Since thesauri still are dealt with in greatest detail and completeness, the ISO standard will be published in two separate parts:
1) Thesauri for information retrieval, covering mono- and multilingual thesauri; data model and exchange formats; everything which relates solely to thesauri
2) Interoperability with other vocabularies, covering guidelines and issues of interoperability between thesauri and single other types of structured vocabularies; advice on mapping
A Committee Draft (CD), in the language of ISO, of Part 1 has been delivered to SC9 on 30 November 2008. During February/March 2009, the standard bodies of the SC9 member countries voted on the Committee Draft which received 100% approval to advance to the Draft International Standard (DIS) stage. The extensive comments received will be used to consider and improve the text for the submission of a DIS version, expected in July 2009, which again will be voted on. Part 1, ISO 25964-1, is expected to be finally published and ready for use in Fall 2009. The work on Part 2 has been started during May 2009.
As widely known, drafts and texts worked on during an ISO standardisation process are not publicly available, they are confidential and under copyright constraints.
To exercise your influence, please contact experts in the responsible national committees (Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine and United States are represented in the ISO working group at this time) via the national standards bodies.
At least the DIS will be open to everybody for general comments and feedback.
Your comments and questions on this and following blog entries at this TechWatch Report site are very welcome and will be read and considered by the responsible ISO working group.
For a few further details and references, i.e. the five parts of the British standard, consult:
Dextre Clarke, Stella G. (2008). ISO 2788 + ISO 5964 + Much Energy = ISO 25964. In: ASIS&T Bulletin October/November 2008