The Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences

You might have heard about the Bank of Finnish Terminology in Arts and Sciences, but now you might be one of the first persons to know that it will be changing its name to the Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences in order to highlight the fact that it includes other languages besides Finnish.

The Helsinki Term Bank is a research infrastructure project created with funding from the Academy of Finland and maintained by the University of Helsinki, in cooperation with the FIN-CLARIN consortium. It is an open-access terminological database, whose content is added, modified, and updated by niche-sourcing, i.e, participation is limited to a particular group of experts from selected subject fields. Thanks to this niche-sourcing method the research community takes responsibility for the availability of up-to-date terminology in their research field.

Sharing this responsibility among top experts guarantees the quality and accuracy of the term base content. Furthermore, when shared among the group of experts, the task is not too large for any individual participant. This is also a more democratic way of carrying out terminology work: there is no single gatekeeper in the field.

In 2012, the project opened a wiki-based website which offers an open and collaborative platform for terminological work and a discussion forum open to all registered users. The project’s staff manages expert groups in different fields, provide support with terminology work, and feed available terminologies into the term bank, which includes 35 fields containing over 40,000 concept pages and 300,000 terms/lemmas.

The data available for all users includes: (1) the term and its synonyms; (2) definition(s); (3) the concept’s place in the concept system and concept diagrams; (4) information about the term’s morphological structure; (5) ostensive definitions (e.g. pictures); (6) contexts (e.g. links to abstracts of articles); (7) term equivalents in other languages (and information about the translatability of terms when necessary).

The Helsinki Term Bank offers a platform for international cooperation in terminology work. For example, a Nordic expert group is currently doing terminology work in the field of language technology. It also offers to possibility of linking different databases, term banks and portals. Therefore, they are constantly looking for partners focused on terminology research.

One of their future projects is to develop automatic tools based on data mining in collaboration with Fin-Clarin. For instance, to provide contextual examples for the terms or to search term candidates and definitions in different languages from research texts in order to help experts in their terminological work. As a first step in this process FIN-CLARIN is creating a corpus of research texts in various fields.

A possible future project may include transforming terminologies in their term bank into ontologies. They have also conducted one experiment in the field of plant morphology. This transformation is far from simple and requires lots of manual work in order to ensure that all the necessary relations between the concepts are properly defined.

Special thanks to Johanna Enqvist, Research Coordinator, who provided me with the information that I have adapted for this post. For more details, visit the Helsinki Term Bank for the Arts and Sciences. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing.

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