Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Glossary designers cannot define components of glossaries

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is working on standard TS 17439 Health Informatics Common Glossary Metadata Repository and Maintenance Process, which aims to define the key components of glossaries in health informatics, so that all such glossaries will be interoperable.

However, the glossary people are having a hard time defining the key components of glossaries.

For example, the definition of 'term' is: The word or group of words being defined in the glossary.

This definition implies that terms do not exist unless they are in a glossary, which is clearly untrue.  Terms existed long before people put them in glossaries.

The definition of 'term ID' is:  A computer generated unique identifier for this instance of the term.

Why is it a necessary condition for term IDs that they be computer generated?  What if a human manually creates an identifier for a term?

Furthermore, what does it mean to have different "instances" of a term?  It appears that it means the appearance of a term in a particular health standards document.  So if the same term appears in two different standards with different definitions in those standards, it gets two identifiers.  But then how does one know that it's the same term?  Uniqueness of the string of characters that make it up?  But then how will one compare the definitions of 'arm pain' and 'pain in the arm'?

The definition of 'context' is: Specialisation context

That is like defining 'automobile' as 'blue automobile'.

Hopefully the glossary makers can get their own definitions right before this proposed standard is approved.

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