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Metadata Required for Ontologies

Check out our Metadata Guide for Ontologies. This downloadable document summarizes the metadata required to create an Ontology in a condensed, easy-to-reference document.

What is an Ontology?

An Ontology is a file that is used with a dataset column (and/or coding sheet) to hierarchically organize values in the data. Ontologies are important because they allow users to link different datasets and coding sheets in tDAR to facilitate Data Integration. Data integration is an exciting feature of tDAR that allows you to integrate datasets collected using different coding systems to combine them for larger scale, synthetic analyses.

Imagine that you have two ceramic datasets that each describe similar kinds of pottery. The Ontology maps similar variables between the two datasets that aren’t necessarily recorded in the same terms. For example, one dataset may describe vessels as whole, body sherd, rim sherd, and indeterminate. The second dataset may use the terms fragmented, rim sherd, intact, and indeterminate. When you create an Ontology, you decide how to best match up those terms and record these matches in tDAR. This then allows you to link the separate datasets and generate a single, larger dataset including all of those data.

For an example of the power of Ontologies and Data Integration in tDAR, see Neusius et al. 2019.

If you are just preparing to upload a new Ontology and would like to preview in a condensed format the information you will be asked to provide, check out our upload guide. This downloadable document summarizes the metadata required to upload an Ontology.

Creating an Ontology

To create an Ontology, first login to tDAR. Click the “Upload” button on the tDAR toolbar. You can access this toolbar and button on any page within tDAR when you are logged in.

Basic Information

Basic information for includes the name of the associated Project, the status of the Ontology metadata, the title of the Ontology, the year the Ontology was created, and an abstract/description.

Choosing a Status

In the “Status” field, select the status (either “active” or “draft”) that describes the state of this information resource. Select “active” to indicate that metadata entry is complete and that the resource is ready to be published once it is submitted. The status “active” means that the data set metadata are visible to all users through searching and browsing.

Select “draft” to indicate that metadata are NOT complete and that the resource is NOT ready to be published. Use the “draft” status to save your work (remember to click the submit button at the bottom of the data set entry page, though, to save your metadata in tDAR).

Note: Status does not inherit from a Project to resources inside that Project. Thus, a Project may be marked as a “draft” or even “deleted” without affecting any of the resources within it.

Entering the Year

The “Year” field documents the year in which this data set was created and/or “published” in its current state. Use the textbox to enter the year your data set was created.

Choose an Account to Bill From

If you already have a billing account with tDAR, simply select the account you would like to bill to. If you do not have a billing account set up, see Creating and Managing Billing Accounts.


Ontology Creators

In the “Ontology Creator” data entry section, list the persons who contributed to the construction of the Ontology you are uploading to tDAR. A person who contributed to the creation of the Ontology may have served as a creator or an analyst.

Begin entering the name of a creator in one of the name fields in the “Person” data entry section. tDAR will make suggestions from a list of tDAR users and other entered persons (i.e., other creators, authors, editors, etc.). If one of the suggested persons matches the person you wish to identify as a creator, select that person. If the suggested persons do not include the person you want to identify, then enter that person’s name, email address, and institutional affiliation as accurately as possible. Enter a current email address and institutional affiliation ONLY if you are confident it is accurate.

To add additional creators, click on the “add another” button. Enter the appropriate information for that person and select the appropriate role.

In some cases, an individual person may not be credited with Ontology creation. Rather, an institution may be identified as creator of the Ontology. To add an institution as a creator, click on the “add another” button and select “Institution”.

Additional Citation Information

Additional citation information prompts you to add additional descriptors related to the publication of your Ontology. Enter the language that is used in your Ontology.

Adding an Abstract/Description

This text field allows you to provide a narrative about the content of the Ontology. You will likely want to describe the research that guided the construction of the Ontology, some of the primary variables and variable states, the use and/or potential uses of the Ontology, and any important information that users may need to know to apply your data. Use the textbox provided to enter an abstract.

Categorize the Ontology

Use the dropdown menu to select a category that best describes the type of data in the Ontology (e.g., human remains, pottery, lithics, etc.). For some categories, the subcategory dropdown will populate, and you can add a subcategory description.

Submit the Ontology

You can submit the Ontology in one of two ways: manually enter (or copy and paste) text directly into a text box or submit an OWL file.

Manual Entry of an Ontology

To manually enter your Ontology, select “Manually enter ontology into a text area” in the “Submit As” dropdown. In your Ontology, examine each term in the datasets that you are integrating, working by column. Identify the term you would like to be used to describe a specific variable state. That is a concept in the Ontology. Each concept will be a single line. After each concept, include in parenthesis the synonyms in the datasets for each term. An example is shown in the screenshot below.

Upload an OWL File

You can also upload an OWL file to submit your Ontology. Select “Upload an OWL File” in the “Submit As” dropdown.

tDAR Collection and Project

You can add your Ontology to an existing Collection or Project that you have permission to edit. To select a Collection, start typing the name of the Collection in the text box and select the name when it appears in the drop-down box. You may also use this text box to name a new, public Collection that will be created when you save your dataset and will only contain the new dataset. To choose a Project, use the drop-down menu to select from Projects that you have permission to edit. Check the box below the project text box to enable inheritance of metadata from that Project.

Institution Authorizing Upload of this Ontology

The “Institution Authorizing Upload of this Ontology” section records the institution that “owns” the resource (i.e., sponsored the production or publication of the document) and/or that gave you permission to upload the resource to tDAR. For example, if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sponsored a report and they provided you permission to upload that report to tDAR, the BLM should be entered in the “Institution Authorizing Upload of this Ontology” section.

Individual and Institutional Roles

You can use these fields to credit the individuals and institutions that contributed to the resource. You can toggle between person and institution using the buttons on the left side of the text boxes. Select the role that best describes their contribution. Use the “add another” button to add additional contributors.


The notes field allows you to enter any additional information about your Ontology that is not captured in the Project metadata fields. This field acts as a comments section, where you can enter a small narrative that might help other users better understand some important aspect of your Ontology.

Select the type of note you wish to create from the “Type” drop-down box. Enter your note in the text field provided.

Save your entry and your Ontology has been created.