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Osteological Database Project

Definition of an RDF-Ontology for Osteological Data and Related Research

In Physical Anthropology, there is a growing interest in analysing large amounts of osteological data. Large-scale projects (e.g. the Global History of Health Project) pool results from various sites and numerous contributors. Software for structured data collection is being developed (e.g. Osteoware or AnthroBook). So far, all these endeavours promote their own specific standards and are tied to a particular software. We see a challenge in developing a system that mediates between existing systems and that provides an infrastructure for a methodological evolution by means of competing standards.

A framework for managing research data from osteological research

We strive at developing a dynamic system for skeletal documentation that allows for a relatively unrestrained expression of observations, while ensuring compatibility of all data. Pooling of data from various sources is facilitated by a systematic declaration of methodology. New methods and research protocols can be incorporated by means of extensions.

In order to achieve maximum flexibility, we draw on the concepts of the Resource Description Framework (RDF). Our ontology will be freely available for implementation in any software being developed. We are also creating our own server-based software application, enabling registered users to enter data and collaborate on research projects.

Instead of providing a rigid documentation scheme, we present a modular system for researchers to build and share their own working environments. We intend to provide an infrastructure for the advancement of methodology through competing standards.

Our software will help institutions that are curating skeletal collections to

  • manage research data from studies involving their specimens
  • provide a platform for their staff to collaborate on research projects
  • provide access to research data for selected researchers, institutions or the public

Researchers can benefit from our software in

  • entering data from skeletal examinations
  • collaborate on research projects by applying identical protocols
  • publishing methods and research protocols