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Realfagstermer [Science Subject Terms]

Realfagstermer is a multilingual, controlled vocabulary of pre-coordinated subject headings which mainly covers the physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. It is maintained by the University of Oslo Science Library in collaboration with the University of Bergen Science Library, and covers mainly the physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. As of January 2018, the vocabulary consists of approximately 14 000 concepts, and about 16 000 compound headings ("subject strings"), published as open data for everyone to use freely.

The headings are grouped into four types: topical, geographical, chronological and genre/form. For each heading, at least a unique identifier and a preferred term in Norwegian Bokmål are specified. In addition, each heading may have preferred terms in other languages, alternative terms (synonyms, acronyms) in one or more languages, classification codes (DDC or MSC), references to related terms ('see also'), notes (for internal use) and definitions (for the end user). Realfagstermer has no hierarchical relationships at present.

All concepts have labels in Norwegian Bokmål and Nynorsk. Translation to English is an on-going project. As of January 2018, 56 % of the vocabulary has been translated. As part of the translation process, mappings to Wikidata are also added where possible.

Taking control

Realfagstermer is a young vocabulary, initiated in 2009 during the early process of consolidating the former department libraries into a new science library. Formerly, the indexing had been based on free keywords, and with different collections coming together there was a need for better control and consistency.

The initial project group based its work on the free keywords previously used, and set the stage for a comprehensive review of these. The review was done by the subject specialists for each department collection. Accepted, and, if needed, corrected headings were re-applied to bibliographic entries in a field for controlled subject headings. Approximately 80 000 records were furnished with controlled subject headings retrospectively.

In spring 2011, Realfagstermer was put in use as the Science library vocabulary. To maintain Realfagstermer we use the locally crafted software Roald for indexing and Sonja for editorial work.

Reaching out

In 2012-2013 we did a project together with NTNU comparing Realfagstermer to their vocabulary Tekord, which resulted in a crosswalk between the two vocabularies covering around 20% of each vocabulary. The project was supported by the National Library of Norway.

About the same time University of Bergen Science Library adopted Realfagstermer for the indexing of their collections, using the indexing software Roald from the summer of 2014, when they also joined the editorial group.

In 2013-2014 we did a project on mapping the Dewey classification system, which resulted in about the same number of mappings as did the earlier mentioned Tekord project. The project was supported by the National Library of Norway.

We believe that the need for controlled, Norwegian science terminology extends far beyond the library field. Through the publication of Realfagstermer as open data, the vocabulary can also be used by others.

Since 2014 we have been part of a project together with the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and the National Library, looking into the possibilities for establishing a general, Norwegian thesaurus based on Humord, Realfagstermer and other vocabularies.


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Published Oct. 27, 2014 2:35 PM - Last modified Jan. 3, 2018 4:42 PM