Terms & Acronyms | Terminology Services | US EPA

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Terminology Services


Supporting access and understanding through terminology

Terminology Services consists of:

  • A repository of environmental terms, their relationships, definitions, and other relevant information (e.g., synonyms)
  • A tool for the creation and management of vocabulary resources (e.g., glossaries, taxonomies, acronym lists)*
  • Wiki-based platform for collaborative vocabulary development

Additionally, Terminology Services includes:

  • Access to key EPA vocabularies, including EPA’s Enterprise Vocabulary and the Web Taxonomy
  • Web services to import and export vocabularies*
  • The ability to publish vocabularies in human and machine readable/open formats*
  • "My Glossaries" which allows users to create customized glossaries by adding a custom terms/definitions and/or selecting existing terms and definitions in Terminology Services
  • Training and documentation (i.e., best practices and FAQs) for developing vocabularies

*Synaptica KMS Software is utilized for these tasks.

Basic Information

EPA’s Terminology Services is a suite of tools and services intended to address issues related to information management. These are:

  • Understanding EPA: EPA programs often define terms and acronyms differently, or use different terms to mean the same thing. Understanding the terms EPA uses is essential to properly interpret information used in decision making. To be transparent, EPA needs to provide access to its terminology.
  • Information Access: Making EPA's information ‘findable’ requires that it be cataloged and indexed. Terminology Services provides the tools and services needed to develop and manage vocabularies used to catalog and index EPA's information assets. It also provides various export options and direct links to vocabularies to expand access where needed.

Terminology Services is part of the work of the Office of Environmental Information's Data Standards Branch. In addition to support from Branch staff, access to contractor support for terminology development can be arranged.

The Data Standards Branch has purchased an enterprise license for Synaptica KMS. This software is used for creating and managing terminology. After appropriate training, access to this tool is available at no cost to EPA program offices. Other partners should contact the Data Standards Branch at ETSS_Admin@epa.gov for further information.

What is Terminology?

Definition of Terminology

Vocabulary used in a particular field or subject area. Terms can exist in multiple structures (e.g., keyword and acronym lists, glossaries, taxonomies, thesauri, ontologies).

Terms of Interest to EPA

The following are of interest to the EPA:

  • Vocabularies created and maintained by EPA program offices, state environmental programs, and international environmental organizations
  • Vocabularies associated with environmental laws and regulations
  • Environmental terms commonly used or understood by the public

Terminology Structures

Terms are organized in structured vocabularies based on things like area of interest, usage, or concepts. These include:

  • Glossaries (words and their definitions)
  • Acronym List (list of words with associated abbreviation or acronym with or without definitions that are often used as reference guides on web sites and documentation.)
  • Keyword Lists (lists of words in a subject category with or without definitions that are often used in drop down or pick lists)
  • Taxonomies (hierarchical term lists that contain synonyms and relationships such as "broader than", "narrower than", "use for", etc.)
  • Thesauri (taxonomies with definitions and relationships)
  • Ontologies (terms connected by a rich web of relationships) are not currently available but will be included as they are developed.

Language of Terminology

See the Terminology Services Glossary.


How does Terminology Services Contribute to Quality Information?

In order to have quality, information must be understandable to the user. Well-defined, well-documented terminology is critical to this process. Is the definition of hazardous waste the same across federal and state laws and regulations? If not, what are the differences? Can data about acid deposition be aggregated with data about acid rain? Developing clear, unambiguous meaning for EPA's terminology is the core business of Terminology Services.

Terminologies change, meanings change; therefore, it is critical that those changes be reflected in a timely and reliable manner so that the comprehension is not compromised. Terminology Services, through its system of stewardship and web service capabilities, is able to keep terminology current and reliable.

Quality terminologies must be accessed in a variety of ways to meet the needs of users. Terminology Services has public access, editor access directly to the terminology tool, and Web services to push and pull updated terminologies for use in search engines, records management, keyword lists, and program office glossaries. Customized glossaries can be created by selecting desired terms from any or all of EPA’s terminologies. This versatility of delivery makes environmental terminology more discoverable, accessible, and valuable to EPA and its customers.

How is the Quality of the Information within Terminology Services Ensured?

Terminology Services relies on industry standard terminology management software (e.g., Synaptica KMS) and collaboration software to provide functionality needed to help ensure development of quality content. Stewardship procedures to ensure quality are built into the creation and editing of terminology content.

Creation of quality terminology: Terminology Services has functionality needed to create well-formed and fully-documented terminology. The terminology tool does not allow deletion of terms; rather, it archives them so terms are never lost. Using collaboration software helps ensure complete documentation of the decision process during the development of terminology. Stewards who have expertise in the target subject area ensure the creation of quality terminology products.

Ensuring quality in terminology content: Terminology Services provides a readily accessible repository of EPA content which can be continually improved through the addition of metadata. Terminology stewards keep content current, correct errors, and monitor for quality issues.

Access and Use: Terminology Services provides tools to develop and edit terminology, a web interface to access and download relevant terminologies (and/or a subset of terminologies) and Web services for machine-to-machine export and import of terminology structures.