The ELSST Team share some innovations for the European Language Social Science Thesaurus.
November 16 2020 marked an important milestone for the European Language Social Science Thesaurus (ELSST) with the launch of its new platform on the CESSDA (Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives) website. The launch was the culmination of intensive work in the past eighteen months led by the UK Data Service.
The previous publishing platform/thesaurus management system was a bespoke system designed and hosted by the UK Data Service, primarily to support the joint management of the multilingual ELSST and its in-house monolingual/English Humanities and Social Science Electronic Thesaurus (HASSET), on which ELSST was originally based.
However, the software is now outdated, and it was felt that the time was right to move both thesauri onto new management and publishing platforms, and for ELSST to move to CESSDA to reflect its pan-European nature. It is also expected to raise the profile of ELSST as a key multilingual metadata tool which can be used for both keyword indexing and discovery.
While the previous software combined both thesaurus management and publishing functions, the new arrangement employs separate systems for managing and publishing the thesauri. For both HASSET and ELSST, the solutions adopted are VocBench3 for thesaurus management, and Skosmos for publication.
A key factor in the choice of VocBench and Skosmos is the fact that both tools are open-source and built on Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS). SKOS is part of the W3C family of standards that supports the use of Linked Data.
This opens up the opportunity for us to link ELSST not only to data but to HASSET and other vocabularies, both within CESSDA and beyond. It is interesting to note that VocBench and Skosmos have also been adopted by other leading multilingual thesauri such as AGROVOC and the UNESCO thesaurus.
With the launch of the new publishing platform, the ELSST licence moved from the University of Essex to CESSDA.
It is freely accessible and covered by a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence. The new licensing arrangements should lead to ELSST being more widely adopted by the international data community and beyond. ELSST is also available on the EOSC Marketplace, further increasing its international visibility.
Financing the work
The technical work needed to move to the new ELSST software was financed by CESSDA under the Ontology Management System project, while the 2020 round of update work for the thesaurus content, including concepts and structures, was managed separately under the CESSDA Metadata Office ELSST, CVS and CDC (Task 2) project.
Both projects were led by the UK Data Service, in collaboration with CESSDA main office and other CESSDA members, including the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD), the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (GESIS) and the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD).
Work involved drawing up a list of requirements, comparing different tool options and solutions, and thorough testing of both VocBench and Skosmos. The UK Data Service was responsible for the VocBench implementation of ELSST, while CESSDA main office was responsible for implementing it in Skosmos, and for managing the new website.
We also worked in close collaboration with the two system developers, i.e. the University of Rome Tor Vergata (for VocBench), and the National Library of Finland (for Skosmos) who responded promptly to our queries.
New management framework
The UK Data Service will continue to manage the VocBench implementation of ELSST, while CESSDA main office will continue to oversee the Skosmos platform and website.
The UK Data Service will also continue to be responsible for the co-ordination of the content management and translation work of ELSST. Content management is a collaborative process that involves reviewing and updating ELSST concepts/terms and hierarchies to make sure that they remain current across the social sciences.
In a multilingual context such as ELSST, it is important to ensure that the thesaurus is relevant to every language (and culture) of the thesaurus. Translation work will continue to be carried out by CESSDA Service Providers, who work on a voluntary basis.
The number of ELSST languages continues to grow.
Currently, ELSST is available in 14 languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. We plan to add Icelandic in 2021.
We are also hopeful that ELSST’s new availability as Linked Data and licensing arrangements will serve to expand its reach and increase its status both within CESSDA and beyond.
The ELSST team at the UK Data Service is responsible for coordinating the content development of he European Language Social Science Thesaurus, and for managing its thesaurus management system, VocBench. The work is funded by the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA).
Current members of the team include Sharon Bolton, Darren Bell, Jeannine Beeken and Lorna Balkan.