by Tiziana Calvitti and Elisabetta Viti
The article aims at comparing the international norm ISO 2788:1986 and the subsequent standards BS 8723:2005-2008 and ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005, concentrating on the new elements that the two British and American standards bring to the theme of structured vocabularies and their interoperability. The preparation of BS 8723:2005-2008 and ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 testifies to a constant and renewed interest for indexing. The new standards demonstrate how, even in the light of modern possibilities for research offered by the WEB, structured vocabularies are still excellent tools, forming the infrastructure, the basis and the bone structure for regulating and formalizing on the one hand indexing activity and on the other user research.
The most important new points of the British BS and American ANSI/NISO standards with respect to the ISO 2788, regard the increase in types of structured vocabularies analysed: as well as the thesauri, examinations are made of lists, synonym rings, taxonomies, lists of authorities, ontologies and classification tables. Another new element is the presentation of forms of data visualization (so-called displaying), with special attention being paid to the transformations made by web technologies and hypertexts. Lastly, recent standards lay special emphasis on the subjects of semantic and technical interoperability between different thesauri or between thesauri and other types of structured vocabularies. In this regard English and American standards offer models and methods of mapping of structured vocabularies in order to activate a dialogue between different tools. The exchange formats and interoperability protocols are the object of analysis of the fifth part of the BS standard, not by chance a topic in progress discussed in a provisional version that is still in the process of being experimented, analysed and changed, while awaiting validation as a British Standard.
The article concludes with a rapid examination of the draft of the new ISO 25964 standard, born out of a proposal advanced in 2007 for the revision, fusion and extension of ISO 2788:1986 and ISO 5964:1985. The WG8 work group (Structured Vocabularies), coordinated by a technical sub-committee ISO TC 46/SC9 produced the ISO NP 25964 project, deciding to use the BS 8723:2005-2008 standard as a reference base for the revision of the previous ISO standards. The draft of the first part of the ISO/CD 25964-1 was distributed to the scientific community in December 2008.
The future standard will have to meet new requirements of interoperability and integration between different structured vocabularies and will have to offer specific criteria for coding the functional software requisites for electronic control and visualization, procedures for mapping between thesauri and other types of structured vocabularies, and architecture and formats for data exchange.