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Interactive visualisation tools for supporting taxonomists working practice.

Cannon, Alan



The necessity for scientists and others to use consistent terminology has recently been
regarded as fundamental to advancing scientific research, particularly where data from
disparate sources must be shared, compared or integrated. One area where there are
significant difficulties with the quality of collected data is the field of taxonomic
description. Taxonomic description lies at the heart of the classification of organisms
and communication of ideas of biodiversity. As part of their working practice,
taxonomists need to gather descriptive data about a number of specimens on a
consistent basis for individual projects. Collecting semantically well-defined structured
data could improve the clarity and comparability of such data. No tools however
currently exist to allow taxonomists to do so within their working practice.

Ontologies are increasingly used to describe and define complex domain data. As a part
of related research an ontology of descriptive terminology for controlling the storage
and use of flowering plant description data was developed.

This work has applied and extended model-based user interface development
environments to utilise such an ontology for the automatic generation of appropriate
data entry interfaces that support semantically well defined and structured descriptive
data. The approach taken maps the ontology to a system domain model, which a
taxonomist can then specialise using their domain expertise, for their data entry needs as
required for individual projects. Based on this specialised domain knowledge, the
system automatically generates appropriate data entry interfaces that capture data
consistent with the original ontology. Compared with traditional model-based user
automatic interface development environments, this approach also has the potential to
reduce the labour requirements for the expert developer.

The approach has also been successfully tested to generate data entry interfaces based
on an XML schema for the exchange of biodiversity datasets.


Cannon, A. (2006). Interactive visualisation tools for supporting taxonomists working practice. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Feb 9, 2010
Publicly Available Date Feb 9, 2010
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords taxonomy; classification; model-based user interface development environments; ontologies; data entry interfaces;
Public URL
Contract Date Feb 9, 2010
Award Date 2006-03


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