Archive for the ‘knowledge organization systems (KOSs)’ Category

DANS: A Catalyst for Knowledge Organization and Structure Research*   no comments

1.0 KO and KS Research: From the real world

Research is the formal, self-conscious process of inquiry for the discovery and production of knowledge and the subsequent explication of theory. Knowledge Organization (KO) is the “science of the conceptual order of knowledge” (Smiraglia 2014, 4) and Knowledge Structure (KS) is a research paradigm in which the structural tools of KO are applied to syntactic representations [of knowledge] that yield structural classes [for] multi-dimensional understanding” (Smiraglia 2020, 46). Thus, research—formal discovery for theory-building—in KO is devoted to unlocking the conceptual elements of that which is known, while, simultaneously, research in KS is devoted to revealing the underlying multi-dimensional fabric and anatomy of knowledge.

Discovery of concepts, their orders, and the subtrate implications of those orders must be rooted in real-world problems. This is why even so-called “theoretical” research (this is research that tests hypotheses in order to reject alternatives until a theory can emerge) must be rooted in milieus that present questions that need specific applications as answers.


Instantiation: The multidecade evolution of the theory of instantiation began with the problem of disambiguating clusters of catalog entries for musical works (think: Beethoven Symphony…. (Smiraglia 1989)) but has been demonstrated to have relevance in evolutionary biology (Greenberg 2009). A real world “problem” presents a question that has larger implications and on analysis leads to structural conclusions such as that the substrate of RDF triples that constitute the Semantic Web are themselves (as are all information objects) to the process of instantiation (realization in time) and therefore constitute classes that require disambiguation (Smiraglia 2008).

Nanoscale patterns in the outer skin layers of humans (Adams et al. 2023): Biologists studying the exoskelotal structure of roundworm nematodes who have transparent structures have discovered “pillars” that form a kind of “scaffolding,” forming not only an “intricate architecture” but “complex structures and intricate patterning.” Patterns, of course, indicate clusters, which can be described as classes, which will need, in turn, disambiguating. A very real-world biological structure presents also a substrate biological knowledge structure. (See: )

2.0 Catalysts for KO and KS Research

The science of knowledge organization owes its formalization to founder Ingetraut Dahlberg, who laid out a plan for independent institutes that would have as their sole objective the study of concepts and knowledge structures (Dahlberg 2007; 2008).

The Institute for Knowledge Organization and Structure, Inc. ( ) is the first institute developed with this sole task as its mission.

At least three major coordinated research environments have generated a fair amount of publication. These groups were all formed by prolific researchers in KO whose work was grounded in real-world applications and the construction of KO systems (KOSs). Ultimately, each of these groups has served as a catalyst for critical research in KO, and arguably in KS. The entire domain of KO, then, relies to some extent on the input of catalytical groups to constantly massage and ultimately deepen the granularity of the domain’s intension.

The oldest and most revered is the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment and the Department of Library & Information Science, University of Mysore, Mysore, India. The Ranganathan endowment produces annually a series of lectures on critical problems in knowledge organization and publishes the journal now titled Journal of Information and Knowledge.

The prolific Brazilian group GPFAPOI: Formação e atuação profissional em produção e organização da informação (Training and professional performance in production and organization of information) formed in 1995 by José Augusto Chaves Guimarães and Natália Bolfarini Tognoli at the Faculty of Philosophy and Sciences, Marília Campus of São Paulo State University Júlio de Mesquita Filho – UNESP ( ). The group has been influential in domain analysis, the ethics of knowledge organization (Martínez-Ávila et al. 2015), and archival applications of KO (Guimarães and Tognoli 2015), among a host of other topics.

Also notably prolific was the Knowledge Organization Research Group (KOrg) at the School of Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Originally formed in 2008, the group eventually hosted international conferences on ethics in KO, held annual retreats, invited guest fellows to join them on campus, and generated three anthologies: Cultural Frames of Knowledge (Smiraglia and Lee 2012), Ontology for Knowledge Organization (Smiraglia and Lee 2015), and Dimensions of Knowledge: Facets for Knowledge Organization (Smiraglia and Lee 2017)). Through interaction with the CIDOC-CRM Conceptual Reference Model for cultural heritage ontology ( ) and the Dutch Virtual Knowledge Studio (Daga, Scharnhorst and Smiraglia 2023, 137) project “Knowledge Lab,” the group served as a catalyst for nascent research in KS.

3.0 DANS

DANS (officially Data Archiving and Networked Services), is an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW or Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen ) and of the Dutch Research Council (I or Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek ). DANS is described as the “Dutch national centre of expertise and repository for research data” ( ), supporting a wide bench of services for scholars to make their data available for research. At present there are data stations for social sciences and humanities, archaeology, life health and medical sciences, and physical and technical sciences. DANS also supports a Data Vault, a shared service called DataVerse, and a wide program of Data Expertise, which brings together researchers, data professionals and other archives to work for sustainable storage and sharing of research data.

DANS has for many years supported a group of honorary fellows, distinguished researchers from related sciences whose own work intersects with the goals of DANS. The present essay shows how DANS has been one of the most productive institutional catalysts for research in KO and KS.

3.1 The KOSo Observatory

The Knowledge Organization System Observatory, KOSo, was a project of DANS begun in 2017 to create a centralized directory to knowledge organization systems. The term “observatory” arose from conversations in the knowledge organization community over time. The goal was to create a repository from which researchers could interact with KOSs. The result of the project was a complex spreadsheet replete with live hyperlinks to extant systems in the social sciences, humanities, and life sciences. The results of the project are available in IKOS’ website: (Coen, Smiraglia, Doorn and Scharnhorst 2019).

3.2 The NARCIS Classification

NARCIS (National Academic Research and Collaborations Information System) was a DANS-maintained national research portal for Dutch scholars. An open access repository of publications and datasets was combined with texts of peer-reviewed publications. To facilitate research and retrieval a classification was created and named for NARCIS. The classification allowed symbolic representation of not only the contents of the portal but also of the Dutch national research milieu. As part of efforts to study the NARCIS Classification the methodology known as “comparative classification” was generated. In comparative classification, sets of ontical positions (essentially concept statements) are classified using two or more different KOSs to quantify aspects of each, such as granularity, expressivity, synthetic capability, etc.

In September 2018 DANS hosted a two-day colloquium ““Trajectories for Research: Fathoming the Promise of the NARCIS Classification,”” 27-28 September. The proceedings from this colloquium were published in a special issue of Knowledge Organization (v. 46, no. 5 2019). In addition to providing a forum for detailed discussion about the NARCIS classification, the colloquium also succeeded in bringing together diverse points of view about national research classifications.

3.3 Digging into the Knowledge Graph

Digging Into the Knowledge Graph (Di4kg ) was a project funded under the Trans-Atlantic Platform’s Round Four Digging Into Data Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to explore sustainability of data-intensive projects. Di4kg was specifically designed to explore best practices for Linked Open Data (LOD) in KOSs in general, and in the social sciences and humanities in particular. Two use cases comprised the majority of work in the four-year project. The humanities project was the creation of LOD for the contents of the Renaissance polyphony CMME (Computerized Mensural Music Editing) project (, which was accomplished by IKOS using existing library LOD venues coordinated through the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF ). The social sciences project involved the UNSPSC United Nations Standard Products and Services Code classification ( ). The project concluded with the publication of an anthology Linking Knowledge: Linked Data for Knowledge Organization (Smiraglia and Scharnhorst 2021).

3.4 Visualization of topic clusters in bibliographic databases

Wang and Koopman (2019) also presented a conference paper and a more extensive journal article about their work with the Ariadne information retrieval tool developed experimentally to investigate topical clusters in the OCLC bibliographic database (Koopman, Wang and Scharnhorst 2015; 2017).

3.5 DANS Infrastructure as Knowledge Structure

Another collaboration featured the knowledge infrastructure represented by DANS, and in particular its role in mediating information exchange among stakeholders (Borgman, Scharnhorst and Golshan 2019).

3.6 KOSs for Digital Humanities

September 2023 saw a workshop at DANS: “Knowledge Organisation Systems: Digital humanities practices and archiving challenges. How much semantic interoperability is feasible?” Approximately simultaneously a poster was prepared for the first post-pandemic international conference of the Association for Information Science and Technology, London, October 2023 (Scharnhorst et al. 2023) The poster, like the workshop, brought together many research streams in which DANS participates, most notable in this case DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities .

4.0 Conclusion: Research Interactions and Alliances for Catalyzing KO and KS

Given that research is the rigorous pursuit of solutions through discovery and that research in KO and KS must be rooted in real-world problems. The maturation of KO as a science has been assisted by a set of very prolific catalyst research groups. DANS clearly has become one of these engines of discovery in KO and KS. Although the mission of DANS is not primarily that of a research institute, it is clear from the evidence compiled here that through the very real-world querying of applications problems in KO and KS DANS has taken a place of honor in the emergence of theoretical research as substrate for very real-world KOS applications. From the KOSo Observatory to the role of semantic interoperability, DANS has catalyzed streams of thought that point to the evolution of new paradigms for research in KO and KS.


Adams, Jennifer R. G., Murugesan Pooranachithra, Erin M. Jyo, Sherry Li Zheng, Alexandr Goncharov, Jennifer R. Crew, James M. Kramer, Yishi Jin, Andreas M. Ernst and Andrew D. Chisholm. 2023. “Nanoscale patterning of collagens in C. elegans apical extracellular matrix.” Nature Communications 14, article no. 7506. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-43058-9

Borgman, Christine L., Andrea Scharnhorst and Milena S. Golshan. 2019. “Digital Data Archives as Knowledge Infrastructures: Mediating Data Sharing and Reuse.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 70, no. 8: 888-904.

Coen, Gerard, Richard P. Smiraglia, Peter Doorn and Andrea Scharnhorst. 2019. “Observing trajectories of KOSs Across Space and Time: The DANS KOS Observatory (KOSo).” In Proceedings from North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization, Vol. 7. Drexel University. DOI:

Daga, Enrico, Andrea Scharnhorst and Richard Smiraglia. 2023. “Ordering the World, Ordering our Thinking, Ordering Interdisciplinary Collaboration—On Knowledge Organization and Ontology Engineering.” In Transferability: Reflections on Planning and Knowledge Organization, ed. H. A. Mieg and A. Scharnhorst. Wissenschaftsforschung Jarhbuch 2021. Berlin: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, pp. 133-153.

Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 2007. “Interview with Ingetraut Dahlberg.” Knowledge Organization 35, no.2/3: 82-85.

Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 2008. “Concepts and Terms – ISKO’s Major Challenge.” Knowledge Organization 36, nos. 2/3: 169-177.

Greenberg, Jane. 2009. “Theoretical Considerations of Lifecycle Modeling: An Analysis of the Dryad Repository Demonstrating Automatic Metadata Propagation, Inheritance, and Value System Adoption.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 47, no. 3: 380-402. DOI: 10.1080/01639370902737547

Guimarães, José Augusto Chaves and Natália Bolfarini Tognoli. 2015. “Provenance as a Domain Analysis Approach in Archival Knowledge Organization.” Knowledge Organization 42, no. 8: 562-569. DOI:10.5771/0943-7444-2015-8-562

Koopman, Rob, Shenghui Wang and Andrea Scharnhorst. 2015. “Contextualization of Topics – Browsing through Terms, Authors, Journals and Cluster Allocations.” In Proceedings of ISSI 2015 Istanbul, 15th International Society of Scientometrics and Informetrics Conference, Istanbul, Turkey, 29 June to 3 July, 2015, ed. A. A. Salah, Y. Tonta, A. A. Akdag Salah, C.  Sugimoto and U. Al. Leuven: ISSI Society, pp. 1042-1053.

Koopman, Rob, Shenghui Wang and Andrea Scharnhorst. 2017. “Contextualization of Topics: Browsing Through the Universe of Bibliographic Information.” Scientometrics 111, no. 2: 1119-1139.

Martínez-Ávila, Daniel, José Augusto Chaves Guimarães, Fabio Assis Pinho, and Melodie J. Fox. 2015. “The Representation of Ethics and Knowledge Organization in the WoS and LISTA Databases.” Knowledge Organization 42, no. 5: 269-275. DOI:10.5771/0943-7444-2015-5-269

Scharnhorst, Andrea, Pascal Flohr, Vyacheslav Tykhonov, Jerry De Vries, Hella Hollander, Jetze Touber, Wim Hugo, Richard Smiraglia, Yann Le France, Ronald Siebes and Enno Meijers. 2023. “Knowledge Organisation Systems in the Humanities: Semantic Interoperability in Practice.” Poster. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology

Smiraglia, Richard P. 1989. “Music Uniform Titles: An Exercise in Collocating Works.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 9, no. 3 (1989): 97-114.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2008. “A Meta‐analysis of Instantiation as a Phenomenon of Information Objects.” Culture del testo e del documento 9 n° 25: 5-25.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014. The Elements of Knowledge Organization. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2020. “The Relationship between Knowledge Organization and Knowledge Structure.” IKOS Bulletin 2, no. 2: 46-49.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Andrea Scharnhorst, eds. 2021. Linking Knowledge: Linked Open Data for Knowledge Organization and Visualization. Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Hur-li Lee, eds. 2012. Cultural Frames of Knowledge. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Hur-li Lee, eds. 2015. Ontology for Knowledge Organization. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Hur-li Lee, eds. 2017. Dimensions of Knowledge: Facets for Knowledge Organization. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag.

*Excerpted from: Smiraglia, Richard P. 2023. “DANS: A Catalyst for Knowledge Organization and Structure Research.” IKOS Bulletin 5, no.2: 109-126. [57 references].

Written by admin on January 18th, 2024

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The Value of Knowledge Organization Systems*   no comments

We are scientists of knowledge and of its order, we have identified the atomic elements of our science (“concepts”) and we have empirically described their behavior, which eerily (or perhaps excitingly) mimics that of elements of quantum theory. That is, we have defined the domain of knowledge, identified its entities (concepts, works, etc.) and the forces that compel them (syntax, semantics, etc.). Ideation is the matter of knowledge and expression compels the conceptual particles that are made up of signs and can be grouped into taxons. Spacetime is represented by the notion of instantiation in which knowledge as concepts move from ideation to expression along a continuum. Spin is the representation of what we know as semiosis, the motion of signification. Strings are spatial objects analogous to instantiation networks or canons. I admit I have presented here a tiny bit of a partial explanation to make my point; for details see please van den Heuvel and Smiraglia 2010, 2013, 2021; Smiraglia and van den Heuvel 2013).

But what is the value of knowledge organization? What value is ascribed to the massive systems for the ordering of knowledge that are the applied products of our science? The question is not new. We can look to classificationists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries for notions of the “economies” of a KOS, usually expressed as the simple elegance with which a complex concept can be expressed (Smiraglia and Szostak 2018).

We can look to the appropriate social outcry at the demise of card catalogs (Baker 1994). What brilliant feats of engineering were the catalogs of major libraries built over a century by armies of catalogers, typists, card printers, card filers, filing revisers, etc., etc. What was the cost of that infrastructure?

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign library catalog S-Z along Wright Street dividing Champaign from Urbana.)

What is the value of a knowledge organization system (KOS)? Is it cost divided by benefit? How do we measure benefit? How do we know the true costs? What is the cost of the UDC? What is the cost of the DDC? What about systems like NANDA-I nursing vocabulary (2018) or the NAICS: North American Industrial Classification ( )

(Elichirigoity and Malone 2005) or the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPC) classification ( ). What was the total cost of conversion of card catalogs to digital form? What is the cost of conversion of KOSs to linked data (see for example Szostak et al. 2020).

There is, of course, no direct answer to these questions.

A few years ago Greenberg (see for example 2015; 2017) began a series of musings about metadata capital, consulting with economists about the idea that capital was invested in the construction of metadata systems and therefore, metadata should be considered as an economic asset.

It seems that there must be an equation of sorts to the extent that the cost of a KOS can be determined such that the cost should be in ratio to the benefit of the system. IKOS exists for the purpose of identifying gaps in the structure of the science of KO. Each clinic must, from now on, pursue questions of value.


Baker, Nichols. 1994. “Discards.” The New Yorker :70, no. 764-86.

Elichirigoity, Fernando and Cheryl Knott Malone. 2005. “Measuring the New Economy: Industrial Classification and Open Source Software Production.” Knowledge Organization 32: 117-27.

Greenberg, Jane. 2015. “Metadata Capital: Raising Awareness, Exploring a New Concept.” Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology 40, no. 4: 30-33.

GreenbergJane. 2017. “Big Metadata, Smart Metadata, and Metadata Capital: Toward Greater Synergy Between Data Science and Metadata” Journal of Data and Information Science 2, no.3: 19-36.

NANDA International. 2018. Nursing Diagnoses: Definitions and Classification 2018-2020, ed. T. Heather Herdman and Shigemi Kamitsuru. 11th ed. New York: Thieme.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Rick Szostak. 2018. “Converting UDC to BCC: Comparative Approaches to Interdisciplinarity.” In Challenges and Opportunities for Knowledge Organization in the Digital Age: Proceedings of the Fifteenth International ISKO Conference, 9-11 July 2018, Porto, Portugal, ed. Fernanda Ribeira and Maria Elisa Cerveira. Advances in Knowledge Organization 16. Baden-Baden: Ergon, 530-38.

Szostak, Rick, Richard P. Smiraglia, Andrea Scharnhorst, Aida Slavic, Daniel MartÍnez-Ávila and Tobias Renwick. 2021. “Classifications as Linked Open Data: Challenges and Opportunities,”. In Linking Knowledge: Linked Open Data for Knowledge Organization and Visualization, ed. Richard P. Smiraglia and Andrea Scharnhorst. Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag, 2021, 24-34

van den Heuvel, Charles and Richard P. Smiraglia. 2010. “Concepts as Particles: Metaphors for the Universe of Knowledge.” In Paradigms and Conceptual Systems in Knowledge Organization: Proceedings of the Eleventh International ISKO Conference, 23-26 February 2010 Rome Italy, ed. Claudio Gnoli and Fulvio Mazzocchi. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 50-56.

van den Heuvel, Charles and Richard P. Smiraglia. 2013. “Visualizing Knowledge Interaction in the Multiverse of Knowledge.” In Classification and Visualization: Interfaces to Knowledge, Proceedings of the International UDC Seminar, 24-25 October 2013, The Hague, The Netherlands, ed. Aida Slavic, Almila Akdag Slah and Sylvie Davies. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 59‐72.

van den Heuvel, Charles and Richard P. Smiraglia. 2021. “Knowledge Spaces: Visualizing and Interacting with Dimensionality.” In Linking Knowledge: Linked Open Data for Knowledge Organization and Visualization, ed. Richard P. Smiraglia and Andrea Scharnhorst. Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag, 200-18.

*Published in print as: Smiraglia, Richard P. 2022. “The Value of Knowledge Organization Systems.” IKOS Bulletin 4, no.1 : 23-26.

Written by admin on October 3rd, 2022

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