Friday, August 15, 2008

DBpedia, and integrating taxonomy with the rest of the linked data world


While biodiversity informatics putters along, generating loads of globally unique identifiers that nobody else uses, perhaps it's time to take a look at the bigger picture. DBPedia is an effort to extract data from Wikipedia and make it available as linked data. At the heart of this effort is the use of HTTP URIs to identify resources, and reusing those URIs. Hence, for many concepts DBpedia URIs are the default option.

Interestingly, in addition to taxa, Wikipedia has pages on prominent (and not so prominent) taxonomists, such as Thomas Say and Henri Milne-Edwards. When it comes to assigning GUIDs to people, DBpedia URIs would be an obvious choice. For example, http://dbpedia.org/resource/Henri_Milne-Edwards is the URI for Henri Milne-Edwards.

This approach has several adavantages. For one, it embeds taxonomic authorities in the broader ocean of linked data. It also makes use of Wikipedia to provide biographical details on taxonomic authorities (many of whom are sufficiently notworthy to appear in Wikipedia). Until we start linking to other data sources, taxonomic data will remain in it's own little ghetto.

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