The NERC Vocabulary Server (NVS) is used to manage controlled vocabularies and lists. A controlled vocabulary is a carefully managed list of words and phrases, which are used to tag information so that they may be more easily retrieved by a search.
The NVS was created over fifteen years ago to host web-accessible controlled vocabularies to make it easier to discover and combine different data, mainly in the marine and atmospheric domains. More recently, other scientific domains are being connected to the NVS thanks to national and international collaborations. Our ability to link these highly domain-specific vocabularies with each other, and to connect them to upper level environmental ontologies, is founded on Semantic Web standards and the Linked Data approach first proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 2006:
The Semantic Web isn’t just about putting data on the Web. It is about making links, so that a person or machine can explore the Web of Data. With Linked Data, when you have some of it, you can find other, related, data.
Using controlled vocabularies is fundamental for:
- representing the environment digitally
- facilitating big data analysis
- having efficient and traceable data workflows
- enabling interoperability between data resources and services
By connecting terms held in controlled lists using standards, the data described by these controlled vocabularies become more interoperable and hence more broadly reusable. It becomes possible to build a truly distributed and interoperable data ecosystem across domain boundaries, enabling data reuse no matter the purpose for which they were collected in the first place.
This effort is on-going and we will continue developing content, tools, and implement international best practices to enable interoperability, and facilitate the use and management of these controlled vocabularies in an interlinked multidisciplinary environment.