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Towards a global knowledge commons

COAR Vocabularies

Why controlled vocabularies?

The use of controlled vocabularies for bibliographic metadata “ensures that everyone is using the same word to mean the same thing”. The continuous revision, update and maintenance of the COAR Controlled Vocabularies and its adoption by the most commonly used open repository software is a way to enhance the interoperability across repositories and with other related systems such as harvesters, CRIS systems, data repositories and publishers.

COAR actively works towards the alignment of repository networks and other systems via technical and semantic interoperability, as well as common approaches to policy and services. In 2014, COAR established the Interest Group “Controlled Vocabularies for Repository Assets” to develop a set of controlled vocabularies for the bibliographic metadata elements used in records describing research outputs.

Developing the COAR Controlled Vocabularies

In order to define the controlled vocabularies, the Editorial Board analyzes existing vocabularies and dictionaries and will use the most appropriate existing terms whenever possible. In the case where there are gaps, new terms are defined by the group.

The COAR Controlled Vocabularies are governed and maintained by the Editorial Board. If you are interested in joining the interest group, please send a message to the COAR Office or to IG chair Jochen Schirrwagen.

The COAR Controlled Vocabularies have multilingual support. The Editorial Board translates labels into numerous other languages.

The current priorities and timelines for the COAR Controlled Vocabularies are:

  1. Resource type to identify the genre of a research resource version 1.1 released in October 2016
  2. Access mode to declare the degree of ‘openness’ of a resource – draft v1.1 released in May 2017
  3. Version to express a specific version of a resource – in review and analysis
  4. Date type to tag an event in the life cycle of a resource – in progress
  5. Classification scheme – in progress

For more information about our method and process for developing the repositories, please read this briefing paper

See the COAR Controlled Vocabularies Infographic.

Implementing the COAR Controlled Vocabularies

The COAR Controlled Vocabularies are described in SKOS. In SKOS, concepts are identified using URIs, labels to the concepts can be offered in multiple languages,  notes allow for description, as well as different annotations and concepts from other vocabularies can be linked.

The URL prefix is reserved for the concepts of the COAR Controlled Vocabularies.

We are currently developing FAQs to support the implementation of vocabularies in repositories.

You are welcome to view the webinars that describe our work, the vocabularies, and how they being implemented.



COAR and the Controlled Vocabularies Interest Group gratefully acknowledge technical support from agINFRA (a data infrastructure for agriculture) to move forward the vocabulary development based on linked data principles.



Last revised: 1 November 2017


Last updated on December 14, 2017 by Jochen Schirrwagen

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