The USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) announced that its Agricultural Thesaurus is now available as Linked Open Data, making possible connections with data from other agricultural databases. The ability to easily connect information from multiple sources could be a major step towards improving agricultural research, allowing for greater opportunities to understand interconnections.
The thesaurus and glossary are online agricultural vocabulary tools listing over 80,000 terms updated yearly. By “semantically linking” the data, information can be searched throughout member databases of the Agricultural Information and Documentation Service of the Americas such as the USDA and the Mexican Network of Agricultural Libraries. An international network of agricultural libraries also exists worldwide through the Food and Agriculture Organization.
A commitment toward an Open Government Initiative began with President Obama’s administration, and resulted in Data.gov. As part of the initiative, government data, like information collected by the Department of Agriculture, will become increasingly open to public scrutiny. Additionally, tools to “increase the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government” are being created. The linking of terminology within the NALT is part of that initiative.
A search for the term “meal” for example, turns up a list of 8 related terms, searchable immediately by clicking on the provided links to google scholar, and AGRICOLA books and articles. By integrating a single word with all its related terms, a search for an idea then becomes not just a “key word,” but a concept in context.
“The thesaurus is primarily used for indexing and for improving retrieval of agricultural information,” says the NALT website. “Currently, the thesaurus is the indexing vocabulary for the National Agricultural Library’s bibliographic database of citations to agricultural resources,AGRICOLA. The Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) and Agricultural Network Information Center (AgNIC)also use the NALT as the indexing vocabulary for their information systems. In addition, the NALT is used as an aid for locating information at the Agricultural Research Service,Economic Research Service and AgNIC web sites and databases.”