SKOS: A Guide for Information Professionals

A Guide to Representing Structured Controlled Vocabularies in the Simple Knowledge Organization System

Priscilla Jane Frazier

March 2015

Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) and associated web technologies aim to enable preexisting controlled vocabularies to be consumed on the web and to allow vocabulary creators to publish born-digital vocabularies on the web.

This guide allows catalogers, librarians, and other information professionals to understand and use SKOS, a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard designed for the representation of controlled vocabularies, to be consumed within the web environment.

The guide includes a brief history of classification technologies, the history of SKOS, and an examination of SKOS within the context of related technology standards like eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and Resource Description Framework (RDF). Following a discussion of the elements and syntax of the SKOS vocabulary, the guide covers various integrity conditions that are used as a guideline for best practices in constructing SKOS vocabularies. The guide then examines past literature, highlighting the conversion, validation, improvement, and automatic generation of SKOS vocabularies. The final section discusses future directions that SKOS development might take.

Article Contents: SKOS Defined  |  Elements of SKOS  |  SKOS Integrity Conditions  |  Literature Review  |  References  |  Appendix


Figure 1. Small collection of vegetable terms listed in alphabetical order.

Throughout history, classification systems have been widely used in the library community. Knowledge organization systems, and more specifically controlled structured vocabularies, are a growing area within the field of classification systems. Within a web context, formats have been proposed for representing controlled vocabularies in a structured way using the web standards XML and RDF.

An important distinction needs to be made between controlled vocabularies that have been published to the web and those that have been published in a structured way specifically for the web. Natural-language vocabularies, such as simple subject heading lists, thesauri and back-of-the-book indexes are extremely useful for humans, but the meaning that machines can derive from them is very limited. Linked open data and linked open vocabularies are both Semantic Web technologies that enable the publishing of controlled vocabularies for the web in such a way that both humans and machines can recognize meaning (Kaltenböck and Bauer 2012). The creation of linked open vocabularies allows for increased and more meaningful points of access and discovery, and greater effectiveness in information retrieval.

A controlled vocabulary allows for organization of some content, or knowledge, such that it can be easily retrieved at a later time. These vocabularies are “controlled” in that they make use of authorized identification of the content they contain. These groupings of concepts are carefully selected and described so that the information they contain can be retrieved in the most intelligent ways possible. Take, for example, the very small collection of terms called the veggie vocab, found in figure 1. This group of terms about vegetables is listed in alphabetical order. At a glance, one can recognize that the list is comprised of the names of foods (in English) and the names of species (in Latin). However, the same information can be displayed in a different way that makes it much easier for people to understand the relationships between the different terms.

Figure 2. Image created using the Coggle mind-mapping web application. (

It is easy to see, from the visualization in figure 2, that the vocabulary is about types of vegetables, Vegetables being the “top” term in the vocabulary. The terms Bean, Root, and Gourd are directly below Vegetables. These terms describe varieties of vegetables. Below this second level of terms is a group of terms of actual vegetables, like Potato and Pumpkin. The relationships between terms are hierarchical—in other words, are broader or narrower in scope with relation to one another. The two types of hierarchical relationships in controlled vocabularies are broader term (BT) and narrower term (NT). For example, Root is a narrower term in relation to Vegetables, but a broader term in relation to Parsnip.


Figure 3. Hierarchical report of terms.

Another way to visualize the vocabulary is as a hierarchical report. Figure 3 shows the hierarchy of terms and terms to which they are related. This figure also includes the term Veggie with the label UF. An equivalency relationship, such as use for (UF) or use (USE), allows the vocabulary to make connections between synonyms and near-synonyms. In this particular vocabulary, Vegetable is an authorized or preferred term, and Veggie is an unauthorized or non-preferred term for the same concept.

The final type of relationship that can be reflected in a vocabulary is an associative relationship. This type of relationship allows the vocabulary to make connections between related terms (RT), or terms that have neither hierarchical nor equivalency relationships. For example, Fruit might be a related term to Vegetable.

SKOS Defined

SKOS is a common data model for knowledge organization systems such as thesauri, classification schemes, subject heading systems, and taxonomies. Using SKOS, a knowledge organization system or controlled vocabulary can be expressed as machine-readable data. Once expressed in SKOS, data can then be exchanged between computer applications and published in a machine-readable format on the web.

The SKOS-Core 1.0 Guide was first introduced in 2001 by the W3C Semantic Web Deployment Working Group (SWDWG) in order to develop SKOS as a W3C standardized classification system. The W3C SWDWG currently maintains several pieces of documentation on SKOS that are freely available on the web. First, the SKOS Reference document, which is currently at the final W3C recommendation or standard stage, defines SKOS. Second, the SKOS Primer document provides a guide for users of the system. Third, the SKOS Use Cases and Requirements document presents a list of representative use cases and a set of requirements derived from these use cases. The SWDWG also maintains an open mailing list and a wiki through which the public may contribute to the development of SKOS.

According to the SKOS Reference document, the aims of the system are:

  1. “to provide a bridge between different communities of practice within the library and information sciences involved in the design and application of knowledge organization systems.”
  2. “to provide a bridge between these communities and the Semantic Web by transferring existing models of knowledge organization to the Semantic Web technology context, and by providing a low-cost migration path for porting existing knowledge organization systems to RDF.”

SKOS is a data-sharing standard that was built upon several preexisting Semantic Web standards for formal logic and structure. These technologies provide ways of expressing meaning that are amenable to computation and that complement and give structure to information already existing on the web. SKOS was built on RDF, and thus SKOS data are represented as RDF triples. RDF and other related web technologies are defined in the appendix.

The Elements of SKOS

The SKOS Vocabulary

The vocabulary of SKOS includes various elements that work together to represent knowledge organization systems. These elements include concepts, labels, relationships, mapping properties, collections, and notes.


skos:Concept (instance of owl:Class). Web Ontology Language (OWL) and Resource Description Framework Schema (RDFS) syntactical equivalents to SKOS elements are provided for reference.

A SKOS concept is any unit of thought: an idea, an object, an event. These concepts are the building blocks of many knowledge organization systems. Because concepts are abstract ideas that exist in the mind, they are independent of the terms used to describe them. Let’s take carrots for example. The English word “carrot” that we use to describe the orange vegetable that rabbits like to eat is actually independent of the concept of a carrot. The idea of a concept and its descriptor (or label) being two separate entities is vital to the SKOS model because it allows machines to identify concepts via their identifier and humans to identify concepts via their label. The SKOS concept element allows vocabulary builders to describe and distinguish concepts and their descriptors (labels). A SKOS concept can be created in two steps:

  1. Create or reuse a uniform resource identifier (URI) to uniquely identify a concept.
  2. Assert (make a statement) in RDF, using the property rdf:type, that the resource identified by this URI is of type skos:Concept


<> rdf:type skos:Concept


In SKOS, a label is the element that is the descriptor of a concept. The three SKOS label elements are sub-properties of the RDFS element rdfs:label. The purpose of these three elements is to link a skos:Concept to an RDF plain literal, or character string.

skos:prefLabel (instance of owl:AnnotationPropertyand sub-property of rdfs:label)

Preferred Label is a SKOS element that makes it possible to assign an authorized name to a concept. The two following examples show that the preferred label for the concept of a vegetable is the word “vegetable” in English and “légume” in French. Example:

ex:vegetable rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Vegetable".


ex:vegetable rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Vegetable"@en;
skos:prefLabel "Légume"@fr.

For information retrieval and information organization purposes, no two concepts in the same knowledge organization system should be given the same preferred label for any given language tag.

skos:altLabel (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty and sub-property of rdfs:label)

Alternate Label makes it possible to assign an unauthorized name to a concept. This label allows multiple same-language descriptors for a concept to be stored. The following example shows that the preferred label for the concept fava_bean is the term “fava bean” and an alternate label is the term “broad bean.” Example:

ex:fava_bean rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Fava bean"@en;
skos:altLabel "Broad bean"@en.

skos:hiddenLabel (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty and sub-property of rdfs:label)

Hidden Label is a label for a resource that a knowledge organization system designer would like to be accessible to applications performing text-based indexing and search operations, but not visible otherwise. The following example shows that the preferred label for the concept “potato” is the term “potato,” and two hidden labels for the concept are “tater” and “spud.” Hidden label may be used for nicknames or colloquialisms, which may be used to refer to the concept in question, but are not appropriate for official documentation. Example:

ex:potato rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Potato"@en;
skos:hiddenLabel "Tater"@en.
skos:hiddenLabel "Spud"@en.


skos:broader and skos:narrower (instances of owl:ObjectProperty)

These two SKOS labels assert hierarchical relationships between concepts, i.e., that one concept is broader or narrower in meaning than another. Example:

ex:root rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Root Vegetable"@en;
skos:narrower ex:sweet_potato.


ex:sweet_potato rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Sweet Potato"@en;
skos:broader ex:root.

skos:related (instance of owl:ObjectProperty)

This SKOS label allows a designer to assert an associative relationship between two concepts.


ex:vegetable rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Vegetable"@en;
skos:related ex:fruit.

ex:fruit rdf:type skos:Concept;
skos:prefLabel "Fruit"@en.

In the SKOS data model, skos:related is not defined as a transitive property, and the transitive closure of skos:broader must be disjoint from skos:related. If the concepts Vegetable and Fruit are related via skos:related, there must not be a chain of skos:broader relationships from Vegetable to Fruit. In other words, there must not be simultaneous instances of hierarchical and associative relationships between concepts.

Semantic Relationships

skos:semanticRelation (instance of owl:ObjectProperty)

SKOS semantic relations are connections between SKOS concepts. This type of relation occurs when a link between two concepts is inherent in the meaning of the linked concepts. Each of the SKOS labels skos:broader, skos:narrower, skos:broaderTransitive, skos:narrowerTransitive, and skos:related are sub-properties of skos:semanticRelation.

skos:broaderTransitive and skos:narrowerTransitive (instances of owl:TransitiveProperty)

Like skos:broader and skos:narrower, these two SKOS labels assert hierarchical relationships between concepts, i.e., one concept is broader or narrower in meaning than another. The transitive nature of these two labels signifies that statements such as: "if vegetables is broader than gourd and gourd is broader than pumpkin, then vegetables is assumed to be broader than pumpkin" can be expressed in the SKOS data model.

Mapping Properties

skos:mappingRelation (instance of owl:ObjectProperty)

The SKOS mapping labels are used to state mapping (or alignment) connections between SKOS concepts existing in different concept schemes, for example, Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), and Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM).

skos:closeMatch (instance of owl:ObjectProperty and owl:SymmetricProperty)

skos:exactMatch (instance of owl:ObjectProperty, owl:SymmetricProperty and owl:TransitiveProperty)

skos:exactMatch is a sub-property of skos:closeMatch.

skos:broadMatch and skos:narrowmatch (instances of owl:ObjectProperty)

skos:broadMatch and skos:narrowMatch are used to specify a hierarchical link between concepts. These two properties are inversely related to one another. skos:broadMatch is a sub-property of skos:broader and skos:narrowMatch is a sub-property of skos:narrower.

skos:relatedMatch (instance of owl:ObjectProperty and owl:SymmetricProperty)

Collections of Concepts

skos:Collection (instance of owl:Class)

The SKOS concept collections labels are used to describe labeled or ordered groups of SKOS concepts. For example, the veggie vocab can be considered a collection of SKOS concepts because it is a group of concepts that have something in common.


<Veggie_Vocab> rdf:type skos:Collection;
 skos:prefLabel “Salad ingredients”@en;
 skos:member ex:lettuce;
 skos:member ex:tomato;
 skos:member ex:onion;
 skos:member ex:cucumber;
 skos:member ex:carrot.

skos:OrderedCollection (instance of owl:Class)

The SKOS concept ordered collection is used to capture a list of items that have been put into some type of order, i.e., chronology or alphabetization.


<Veggie_Vocab> rdf:type skos:OrderedCollection;
 skos:prefLabel “Vegetables by size”@en;
 skos:memberList :b1.
 _:b1 rdf:first ex:pumpkin;
 rdf:rest _:b2.
 _:b2 rdf:first ex:potato;
 rdf:rest _:b3.
 _:b3 rdf:first ex:limaBean;
 rdf:rest rdf:nil.

skos:member (instance of owl:ObjectProperty)

The SKOS concept member is used to define multiple members of a collection.


<Veggie_Vocab> rdf:type skos:Collection;
skos:member <bean> , <gourd> , <root> .

skos:memberList (instance of owl:ObjectProperty and owl:FunctionalProperty)

The SKOS concept member is used to define multiple members of a collection in a list format.


<Veggie_Vocab> rdf:type skos:OrderedCollection;
skos:memberList ( <bean> , <gourd> , <root> ) .



This SKOS label was created for general documentation purposes. There is a hierarchical link between skos:note and its different specializations that allows multiple notes to be captured separately and appropriately and for additional information associated with a concept to be retrieved in a straightforward way.

skos:scopeNote (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label supplies some information about the intended meaning of a concept. It is usually used as an indication of how the use of a concept is limited in indexing practice.


ex:root skos:scopeNote
"Used for plant roots used as vegetables"@en.

skos:definition (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label supplies a complete explanation of the intended meaning of a concept.


ex:parsnip skos:scopeNote
"The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. Parsnips resemble
carrots, but are paler in color than most carrots, and have a sweeter taste, especially when cooked."@en.

skos:example (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label supplies an example of the use of a concept.


ex:pumpkin skos:example
"baking, cooking, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin carving, jack o’lanterns, etc."@en.

skos:historyNote (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label describes significant changes that have been made to the meaning or form of a concept.


ex:green_bean skos:historyNote
"The first "stringless" bean was bred in 1894 by Calvin Keeney while working in Le Roy, New York."@en.

skos:editorialNote (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label supplies information that is an administrative aid, such as reminders of editorial work still to be done, notifications that future editorial changes might be made, etc.


ex:lima_bean skos:editorialNote "Check for alternate terms"@en.

skos:changeNote (instance of owl:AnnotationProperty)

This label documents fine-grained changes to a concept for the purposes of administration and maintenance.


ex:Parsnip skos:changeNote
"Moved from under 'Gourd' to under 'Root' by Priscilla Jane Smith"@en.

It should also be mentioned that it is possible to use non-SKOS properties to document concepts (i.e. Dublin Core’s dct:creator).


ex:spaghetti_squash dct:creator [ foaf:name "Priscilla Jane Frazier" ].

In this example, the dct:creator property is further defined by the use of the Friend-of-a-Friend system (FOAF) in order to state that the identity of the “creator” of this concept (Priscilla Jane Frazier) is connected to other individuals via the FOAF community.

SKOS Integrity Conditions

The SKOS Reference document includes several integrity conditions. Integrity conditions are statements that help determine whether or not given data (for example, a vocabulary) are consistent with respect to the SKOS data model. The purpose of SKOS integrity conditions is to encourage the construction of well-formed and consistent data and to promote interoperability between data represented in SKOS.

skos:ConceptScheme is disjoint with skos:Concept

This condition states that SKOS concept schemes, or groups of SKOS concepts, must not be on the same hierarchical level as SKOS concepts and vice versa. For example, in the veggie vocab, Vegetables is a skos:ConceptScheme. This means that Vegetables must not also be a skos:Concept and one of the concepts, like Lima Bean, may not be a skos:ConceptScheme.

skos:prefLabel, skos:altLabel and skos:hiddenLabel are pairwise disjoint properties

This condition states that no SKOS concept may be a member of more than one preferred label, alternate label, and hidden label.

A resource has no more than one value of skos:prefLabel per language tag

This condition states that no SKOS concept may have more than one preferred label for each language tag. For example, the concept summer_squash has the preferred label of “Summer Squash” in English and of “Cucurbita pepo” in Latin, and there may not be any other preferred labels in English or Latin.

skos:related is disjoint with the property skos:broaderTransitive

This condition states that no two SKOS concepts may be connected by both related and broader transitive relationships.

skos:Collection is disjoint with each of skos:Concept and skos:ConceptScheme

This condition states that SKOS collections, or labeled or ordered groups of SKOS concepts, must not be on the same hierarchical level as SKOS concepts and vice versa. For example, in the veggie vocab, Vegetables is a skos:Collection. This means that Vegetables must not also be a skos:Concept and one of the concepts, like Lima Bean, may not be a skos:Collection.

skos:exactMatch is disjoint with each of the properties skos:broadMatch and skos:relatedMatch

This condition states that no two SKOS concepts may be related by more than one of exact match, broader match, and related match.

Literature Review

This literature review covers known SKOS conversion and validation techniques. Also included are numerous SKOS custom expansions and improvement techniques that have been implemented in the past. Finally, the literature review will discuss the new technique of vocabulary creation using SKOS and the state of the field as it stands today.

SKOS Tools

In the information profession, research and development efforts on the conversion of controlled vocabularies to the SKOS format are being pursued, and a number of technologies and methods have been proposed. Although a manual conversion of a controlled vocabulary by a person or group of people is possible, it is time-consuming and likely prone to error. Applications have been developed to automatically convert vocabularies into the SKOS format, to validate the quality of the formatting of a vocabulary in SKOS format (e.g., PoolParty online SKOS Consistency Checker), and most recently, to improve the quality and validity of SKOS vocabularies (e.g., the Skosify tool can be used to convert and improve vocabularies expressed as RDFS and OWL into SKOS format). This literature review covers SKOS conversion and validation techniques. Numerous SKOS custom expansions and improvement techniques that have been implemented in the past are also documented. Finally, the literature review will discuss new techniques for vocabulary creation using SKOS, and the state of the field as it stands today.

Conversion Techniques

In 2001, the Semantic Web Advanced Development for Europe (SWAD-E) published Migrating Thesauri to the Semantic Web: Guidelines and Case Studies for Generating RDF Encodings of Existing Thesauri, a thesaurus research prototype that presents guidelines and methods for migrating traditional thesaurus systems to RDF based thesaurus systems. The process described in this document consists of three stages. First, an RDF encoding of the thesaurus is generated. Second, the encoding is taken through error checking and validation processes. Third, the encoding is published on the web. During the first step, a traditional, or term-oriented, view of a thesaurus is converted to a concept-oriented view. Thus, each “preferred term” in a thesaurus becomes a “preferred label” for a “concept.” Each “preferred label” is given a tag of skos:prefLabel, and each concept is given a tag of skos:concept. Each “concept” in the thesaurus is assigned a unique URI that can be linked through the web to URIs for related concepts. The technique of designating unique and persistent URIs for all concepts in a vocabulary allows machines to understand the relationships between concepts similar to the way humans understand these types of relationships intrinsically.

Assem, et al.(2006) expand on the technique used in step one of the SWAD-E document. Their paper suggests three activities that will effectively link the term-oriented view of a thesaurus to its concept-oriented view. First, the digital format and the documentation of the thesaurus are analyzed to determine the features of the thesaurus and how it is encoded. Second, a mapping between the thesaurus data items and the SKOS RDF is defined. Third, a transformation program, or algorithm, is created. The authors mention a sub-activity in which pre-existing URIs, if present, are identified. If no URIs exist, in the term-oriented view of a thesaurus, the authors suggest creating randomly generated unique identifiers or using the name of unique preferred terms to generate URIs.

Assem, et al. apply their new technique to three existing thesauri: Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV), Common Thesaurus for Audiovisual Archives (GTAA), and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). These particular thesauri are chosen because of their popularity and range in complexity. The authors find that conversion of the largest and most complex thesaurus, MeSH, is problematic but those difficulties assist in identifying the boundaries of the applicability of their technique. The fact that MeSH contains textual notes that combine several types of knowledge, or compound concepts, leads the authors to conclude that some thesauri have complex structures for which no direct SKOS counterpart exists. Additionally, IPSV and MeSH contain management information about their terms, which cannot be represented within the SKOS standard. The authors also mention that at the time of their study validation of SKOS RDF is difficult, due to the lack of validation technologies.

In 2008 Summers, et al. presented a technique for converting Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to SKOS in their paper “LCSH, SKOS and Linked Data.” In their research, the authors use content in MARC bibliographic records to harvest LCSH terms and map them to corresponding SKOS concepts. For example, Library of Congress Control Numbers are given to every LCSH, are mapped onto skos:Concept and are used to create unique URIs for each concept. Pre-coordinated LCSH terms, or LCSH terms that have been previously combined together in anticipation of a search on that combination of terms, which have the potential to create problems in SKOS because they represent more than one term or concept, are simply flattened into one concept in this technique. To accomplish the conversion, the authors write code using the Python programming language and use open-source MARCXML and RDF processing tools to create an object-oriented streaming interface to mint URIs and link them together. Additionally, the authors suggest that an extension of SKOS would allow the full meaning of LCSH terms to be captured in SKOS form and that the integration of other Semantic Web vocabularies such as Dublin Core could allow SKOS vocabularies to be even more meaningful.

The earlier conversion methods of SWAD-E were adapted by Neubert in his 2009 paper “Bringing the ‘Thesaurus for Economics’ on to the Web of Linked Data.” Neubert found that SKOS’s built-in multilingual features are useful, given that the Thesaurus for Economics, or STW, is made up of both English and German terms. The author states that the conversion of STW into SKOS was straightforward. However, at the time of his research, several new SKOS classes, including skos:notation, had been introduced by W3C. Neubert was able to take advantage of the fact that SKOS could now accommodate internal management information notation, something that Assem, et al. had observed SKOS was lacking in 2006.

Validation Techniques

Neubert (2009) also discusses the use of SPARQL queries to check SKOS vocabularies for inconsistencies. The author describes the process of loading SKOS vocabularies into a SPARQL server and running inconsistency checks, where queries that check for illogical links between concepts would bring these inconsistencies to the attention of the implementer. Neubert also mentions that this process could potentially improve thesaurus maintenance if inconsistency checks could be performed routinely. The concept of automatic validation of SKOS vocabularies was new at the time of his research. One drawback to this validation process is that an implementer inputting the SPARQL queries would only be able to locate inconsistencies that had previously been anticipated. Inconsistencies that are not queried would not be identified by the SPARQL server.

In their 2012 paper “Improving the Quality of SKOS Vocabularies with Skosify,” Suominen and Hyvönen propose a tool with the ability to check the quality of a SKOS vocabulary. The authors cite a lack of quality and validity of existing SKOS vocabularies as the reason for the development of this new tool, named the PoolParty Online SKOS Consistency Checker, or PoolParty. The researchers created a list of eleven validation criteria by which SKOS vocabularies are checked. The criteria were gathered from the W3C SKOS Reference document and from the authors’ examination of fourteen freely available SKOS vocabularies. The authors found that all of the medium- and large-sized vocabularies failed at least one validation check, meaning that they did not meet some of the SKOS integrity constraints. Only one of the fourteen vocabularies passed all eleven validation criteria.

Custom Expansions

As seen in Assem, et al. and Neubert, controlled vocabularies often contain constructs that have no direct counterpart in SKOS. As stated in the SKOS Primer, SKOS is designed for simple extension of language constructs for the specialization of a particular vocabulary. This is made possible by expounding upon a SKOS construct using the extension rdfs:subClassOf. Neubert proposes two SKOS extensions for use with the STW thesaurus. First, he splits skos:Concept into two “subclasses.” This change is chosen because along with the standard terms, or descriptors, STW includes a taxonomy of approximately 500 classes that are used to aid user information retrieval. Neubert splits skos:Concept into two parts: zbwext:Descriptor rdfs:subClassOf skos:Concept for concepts and zbwext:Thsys rdfs:subClassOf skos:Concept for classes. This approach allows for well-defined semantics in terms of broader and narrower relationships between concepts and allows users to search for both concepts and classes. Additionally, Neubert extended the newly introduced skos:note using the following notation: zbwext:useInsteadNote rdfs:subClassOf skos:note for notes that guide users to designated preferred labels rather than other preferred labels in certain circumstances.

Improvement Techniques

Along with their validation tool PoolParty, Suominen and Hyvönen (2012) introduce Skosify, a tool created to improve the quality and validity of SKOS vocabularies. Skosify is a command line tool capable of reading one or more SKOS files and outputting a file in which errors and problems have not only been identified, but corrected. Skosify is able to address nine of the eleven validation criteria mentioned earlier in their paper. After being tested on fourteen vocabularies, Skosify corrects problems in all nine of these categories. The tool has the ability to correct missing language tags if a default language is provided, to detect unlabeled concept schemes and add specified labels and to remove unnecessary white space surrounding property values. Skosify can recognize and correct more sophisticated problems having to do with the relationships between concepts in vocabularies. The tool is able to identify top level concepts and add hasTopConcept and topConceptOf relationships to that concept scheme, recognize the designation of more than one prefLabel for a single concept and correct the error, and identify as well as correct concepts that have been mislabeled as collections. Additionally, the tool recognizes when a concept is linked to a label using two different label properties and removes the less important property, recognizes when concepts are linked together in a way that is disjointed and removes the related relationship assertion without disabling the broader hierarchy, and recognizes cycles or concepts that have a broader relationship with themselves and removes the offending relationship.

Vocabulary Creation with SKOS

In 2010, Gerbé and Kerhervé proposed a new approach to vocabulary creation with their paper “A Model-Driven Approach to SKOS Implementation.” Their technique involves viewing the SKOS conceptual model as a metamodel for structured controlled vocabularies. Using a model management and model engineering approach, the authors state that flexible and extensible vocabularies can be managed and created, which may be useful for nontraditional or highly complex vocabularies. Model operators, or prompts used in model management, such as map, match, merge, and compose, can be used to map term-oriented vocabularies onto a concept-oriented platform. Gerbé and Kerhervé introduced a metamodel and SKOS engine for use in the development of SKOS vocabularies. The metamodel is expressed in much the same way as a database schema, and is supported by the MySQL database system. The SKOS engine is built as a database with an interface for use in populating and visualizing the vocabulary content. The authors state that the tool is also capable of importing, exporting, and merging vocabularies. This model-driven database approach to SKOS vocabulary creation takes the capabilities of tools for working with SKOS vocabularies to a new level of sophistication by offering an advanced data storage system and a graphical user interface.

State of the Art

In 2012, Manaf, Bechhofer, and Stevens presented a survey of the current state of SKOS vocabularies on the web. A total of 478 vocabularies were identified as complying with the given definition of a SKOS vocabulary. Analyses of those vocabularies include investigation of the use of SKOS constructs, the use of SKOS semantic relations and lexical labels, and the structure in terms of the hierarchical and associative relations, branching factors, and depth of the vocabularies.

The researchers collect the following data on each SKOS vocabulary: number of SKOS concepts; depth of each SKOS concept and depth of the concept hierarchy; number of links for skos:broader, skos:narrower, and skos:related properties; total number of concepts not connected to any other concepts; total number of concepts with skos:narrower relations but no skos:broader relations; and maximum number of skos:broader properties. According to the researchers, SKOS concepts and concept labeling is core to SKOS vocabularies, but not all SKOS vocabularies in the study use SKOS lexical labels for their concepts. Approximately one-third of the SKOS vocabularies studied fall into the category of term lists, with no use of any SKOS semantic relations. The researchers find that not all published SKOS vocabularies explicitly declare SKOS concepts present in the vocabularies. The survey results can serve to provide a better understanding of the modeling styles of the SKOS vocabularies published on the web, especially when considering the creation of applications that utilize these vocabularies.