Technology for SeaDataNet Controlled Vocabularies for Describing Marine and Oceanographic Datasets – A Joint Proposal by SeaDataNet and ODIP ProjectsThe NERC Vocabulary Server provides access to groupings of standardised terms that cover a broad spectrum of disciplines of relevance to the oceanographic and wider environmental sciences communities. Using standardised sets of terms (otherwise known as “controlled vocabularies”) in metadata and to label data solves the problem of ambiguities associated with data markup and also enables records to be interpreted by computers. This opens up data sets to a whole world of possibilities for computer aided manipulation, distribution and long term reuse. An example of how computers may benefit from the use of controlled vocabularies is in the summing of values taken from different data sets. For instance, one data set may have a column labelled “Temperature of the water column” and another might have “water temperature” or even “temperature”. To the human eye, the similarity is obvious but a computer would not be able to interpret these as the same thing unless all the possible options were hard coded into its software. If data are marked up with the same term, this problem is resolved. In the real world, it is not always possible or agreeable for data providers to use the same terms. In such cases, controlled vocabularies can be used as a medium through which data centres can map their equivalent terms.