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A geologic timescale ontology and service

Abstract

We have developed an OWL ontology for the geologic timescale, derived from a Unified Modeling Language (UML) model that formalized the practice of the International Commission for Stratigraphy (ICS) (Cox and Richard 2005). The UML model followed the ISO/TC 211 modeling conventions, and was the basis for an XML implementation that was integrated into GeoSciML 3.0. The OWL ontology is derived using rules for generating OWL ontologies from ISO-conformant UML models, as provided in a (draft) standard from ISO/TC 211. The basic ontology is also aligned with SKOS to allow multilingual labels, and to enable delivery through a standard vocabulary interface. All versions of the International Stratigraphic Chart from 2004 to 2014 have been encoded using the ontology. Following ICS practice, the elements of the timescale retain the same identifiers across the multiple versions, though the information describing each geochronologic unit evolves with the versions of the timescale. The timescales are published through multiple web interfaces and APIs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.stratigraphy.org

  2. 2.

    These standards are currently in revision, in part to improve alignment with OWL implementations, see ISO/DIS 19103 (ISO/TC-211 2014b) and ISO/DIS 19109 (ISO/TC-211 2013).

  3. 3.

    http://def.seegrid.csiro.au/isotc211/iso19108/2002/temporal, http://def.seegrid.csiro.au/isotc211/iso19156/2011/sampling

  4. 4.

    See http://resource.geosciml.org/ontology/timescale/rank which includes Super-Eon, Eon, Era, Period, Sub-Period, Epoch, Age.

  5. 5.

    http://stratigraphy.org/GSSP/index.html

  6. 6.

    http://www.stratigraphy.org/index.php/ics-chart-timescale

  7. 7.

    https://www.seegrid.csiro.au/wiki/CGIModel/GeologicTime#ICS_Stratigraphic_Chart

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Acknowledgments

Parts of this work were funded by AuScope under the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. Terry Rankine and Jacqui Githaiga (CSIRO), and Stuart Williams (Epimorphics) assisted with the SISSvoc interface implementation. Doug Fils (ODP), Marshall Ma (RPI), Jonathan Yu (CSIRO), and Stephan Zednik (RPI), provided useful comments on the use and publication of RDF/OWL. Jim Ogg and Felix Gradstein of ICS provided some advice about the timescale structure. Guillaume Duclaux and Jonathan Yu (CSIRO) helped clarify some aspects of the paper in review. SJDC would like to pay tribute to the late W.B. Harland, who introduced the challenges of formalizing stratigraphy and the timescale in the undergraduate curriculum at Cambridge.

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Correspondence to S. J. D. Cox.

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Published in the Special Issue Semantic eScience with Guest Editors Dr. Xiaogang Ma, Dr. Peter Fox, Dr. Thomas Narock and Dr. Brian Wilson.

Communicated by: H. A. Babaie

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Cox, S.J.D., Richard, S.M. A geologic timescale ontology and service. Earth Sci Inform 8, 5–19 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12145-014-0170-6

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Keywords

  • OWL
  • SKOS
  • UML
  • Stratigraphy
  • Timescale
  • Chronostratigraphy
  • Reference system
  • Versioning