Concepts in the dataARC Tool

DataArc’s central aim is to foster interdisciplinary and collaborative research on the long-term human ecodynamics of the North Atlantic through the development of digital resources and tools. The group’s research ranges across disciplines from environmental geography to paleoclimate modeling, to zooarchaeology, and to saga studies. Clearly, the theories, approaches, and data involved are diverse. How a zooarchaeologist thinks about fish and identifies different types of fish and activities related to fishing through their data is very different from how a saga specialist thinks about fish and identifies fish-related activities. Yet researchers in both disciplines, at least in the North Atlantic, do work that involves thinking about and studying fish. DataARC aims to build tools to help its researchers better understand one another's approaches to and data on shared topics like fish and fishing.

Defining a shared data model and conceptual framework to build links across these disciplines, to help researchers integrate their data and ideas, is an important part of developing dataARC’s digital research tools. This task requires that we think about the ideas and conventions implicit in how each researcher models their own data so that we can create a formal framework to clearly express the links between individual researchers’ shared ideas and questions. This formal framework is the dataARC concept map. The concept map is the product of much debate and discussion among the group and continued to evolve during the course of the project. 

Ontologies like the CIDOC CRM and play a key role in cross-disciplinary data integration. Ontologies describe knowledge about a domain and document how concepts connect to one another. These structured descriptions of a set of inter-related concepts can be visualized as a graph — rather like a mind map. The dataARC community has developed a shared ontology, referred to in our documentation as the 'concept map', around the central concept of the 'changing landscape'.

To support compatibility and future integration with external projects, dataArc is connecting its concept map to the International Committee for Documentation Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC CRM). We’ve chosen the CIDOC CRM because of its active user community in the archaeological, cultural heritage, and historical domains, and the development of extensions such as CRMsci that support the incorporation of scientific observations.

We have also implemented limited mappings to relevant domain ontologies such as GBIF.  Suggestions for cross-mappings to domain ontologies used in other domains connected to human ecodynamics are encouraged.  (link)

Individual concepts in our community-developed concept map are described in scope notes. These scope notes are authored and edited by multiple team members. Though short texts, they bring together interdisciplinary perspectives.

Our scope notes collection (link) is a living document, hosted on github. Because ideas change and new voices enter our research community as it grows, we've chosen to take an open, discursive approach to write the scope notes. Anyone interested in contributing a new scope note or suggesting revisions to scope notes can participate in the process.

You can view the current state of the scope notes and see their interconnections at our Scope Notes Repository. You can contribute new scope notes or suggest edits by forking the repository at github. You'll find the individual scope notes as markdown documents here. Submit a pull request with your contribution to get involved.

The concept map's connections drive the search results returned by the dataARC Search Tool. This search tool intentionally presents related results from other disciplines in addition to the results that respond to a domain-specific query, and aims to explain why the results are relevant. You can see the current version of the dataArc concept map at work here.