Group Summary

The Vocabularies and Semantics Working Group brings together people who are interested in semantics and vocabularies relevant to the polar regions. Originally established as a joint effort between the Arctic Data Committee and the Arctic Data Sub Team of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, the group is open to all individuals and organizations with an interest in this topic.  

Group activities include:

  • Promote awareness of existing vocabularies and semantics initiatives to increase effectiveness and reduce or eliminate redundancy
  • Coordinate vocabularies and semantics development activities across the polar information community
  • Enable and organize regular communication within the community
  • Help members of the community connect to useful and interoperable vocabularies
  • Inform the polar community about broader activities (e.g. ESIP, RDA), and act as ambassadors from the polar community to other initiatives

Semantic Resource Types

Semantic resources fall along a spectrum of reasoning capability.  All types are useful, depending on your context.  The resource types we've defined so far are: 

  • Controlled vocabulary (a list of terms controlled by some authority - example, this dropdown list); 
  • Glossary (terms and their definitions, possibly with synonyms - example, NSIDC's Cryosphere Glossary; 
  • Thesaurus (a structured controlled vocabulary where there is information about each term and its hierarchical, associative, or equivalence relationships to other terms in the thesaurus);  
  • Taxonomy (hierarchies of terms organized as tree structures without significant relationships to concepts in other trees - example, oak and elm are both types of trees); and 
  • Ontology (a set of concepts with attributes and relationships between the concepts which together define a domain of knowledge, expressed in machine-readable format)

Help map terminology resources

The survey has now been closed and work is in progress to move on with information gathered.

The Vocabularies and Semantics Working Group is running a survey to identify relevant terminology resources for the polar community. Please help  by responding to the survey at

and circulate the survey to potential respondents.


The group is now active with regular virtual meetings using Teams. As a general rule, the group meets for virtual meetings every 4th Tuesday of the month at 14:00 UTC (during Daylight Savings time, one hour later). Send an email to polarsemantics (at) if you want to be involved and aren't yet on the polarsemantics email list.

Meeting Minutes:





2020 2019
2018   2017  

Communication Channels

A set of collaboration tools and communication channels have been established for the group.  

  • A dedicated Trello team has been set up for management of the group activities.
    • This is not actively used.
  • The Slack space for group is used for realtime, day to day communications.  
    • This is not a payed account meaning the history will disappear after a while.
  • A Google Group has been established for internal asynchronous communication and archive of information etc.
  • A Google Drive has been established for document management, meeting minutes and agendas, etc.
    • This is where the initial overview of relevant vocabularies are listed first.
  • A GitHub repository will be established for specific vocabularies or ontologies established under the project.

Partners and Related Groups and Activities 

WMO activities (through METNO)

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