Semantic Web-based Thematic European Reference Network Application (STERNA)

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Access, Aggregation, Semantics

STERNA (Semantic Web-based Thematic European Reference Network Application) is a Best Practice Network project supporting the objectives of the European Digital Library by pioneering the integration of semantically enriched digital resources in the field of natural science, biodiversity and conservation.

The name STERNA refers to the RNA project, where RNA stands for Reference Network Architecture. This project, supported by the Dutch ministries of Education and Economic Affairs, dealt with best practices for setting up dynamic knowledge systems. The STERNA project can be seen as the European follow up of the RNA project.

Semantic: We use state-of-the-art semantic web technologies originally developed, proven and tested within the Dutch Reference Network Architecture project.

Web-based: STERNA is a web-based application to increase and improve access to heterogenous resources on the Internet. Yet, rather than building a central repository of resources, it connects and links digital content that remains within the original databases.

Thematic: The resources presented in this digital library focus on a common theme: birds. The information space brings together all sorts of  multimedia resources on birds, their habitats, and other bird-related topics such as bird-flu, migrating birds or different bird species. All of this information is presented in one information space.

European: Linking digital libraries all over Europe implies becoming multilingual. Although it outstretches the possibilities of the project to translate resources at the level of single content items, through the use of multilingual reference structures, multilinguality is achieved at the object description level: Users are able to issue a query in their native language and will receive relevant resources from many different participating members.

Reference structures: They constitute the actual "glue" between the resources and are used to search and retrieve content items that are semantically related. Under the term reference structure we subsume all sorts of "controlled vocabulary", from simple word lists and glossaries to taxonomies, thesauri and ontologies. By sharing and connecting reference structures into a coherent network of concepts, and then attaching digital resources to this global reference network, geographically dispersed content items can be searched and retrieved from any of the member sites.

Network: STERNA is a network of independent, autonomous member institutions. Joining STERNA means to provide access to the institution's metadata which is stored not in a central repository but at the participating member sites. Thus institutional work flows and information structures remain intact and will not be altered when contributing to the distributed digital library.

Application: STERNA is a web-based application that can be accessed by users via the member sites. It is based on a "software as a service" concept, meaning that one core site provides services to the affiliated member sites on request.