We taxonomists love lists. For us, they are raw materials, the stuff we love to get our hands on to start organizing. I recently came across a couple of lists with crossover appeal and relevance beyond simple conceptual organization. Both address why we do this stuff and how we help turn information into actionable knowledge.

The first is a post by Kent Anderson on the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Scholarly Kitchen, entitled UPDATED — 73 Things Publishers Do (2013 Edition). 73! This grew out of the 2012 list of a mere 60 things journal publishers do and several more offered in a postscript.

Several of the early items on the list have to do with establishing and nurturing a high quality product and readership, followed by numerous points relating to the business of journal publishing. At #34 we find a key contribution of journal publishers that adds value:

Tagging. To generate good metadata, articles and elements are often tagged using either semantic, custom taxonomies, or both. Sometimes, tagging is manual, sometimes automated, and sometimes a little of both. But it doesn’t happen all by itself. And it isn’t maintained, enhanced, expanded, migrated, or corrected all by itself, either.

[good to be recognized, isn’t it?]

Later points of particular interest to taxonomists and others concerned with information management include:

Search engine optimization – “…authors want their papers to be found”

Integrate and track metrics and, increasingly, altmetrics

Implement and manage interlinking services

Create and maintain e-commerce systems

Create or integrate with educational offerings

In the follow-up discussion for the list of journal publishers’ 73 valued activities we find: “It may be time to start thinking about how this list could be subdivided into discrete and logical categories.” Could there be a taxonomist in the audience?

We strive for meaningful usability, which sometimes means distilling great quantities of material to its essence. In an exploration of how document managers can add value, Seth Maislin encapsulated their contributions in an essential six points.

Findability – finding things accurately and precisely

Speed – finding things quickly

Timeliness – finding things quickly, in manageable chunks and in context, with retrieval tuned to a user’s situation (read “relevance”)

Accessibility – content delivered in a way that’s usable, readable, printable, viewable on a device, etc.

Personalization content delivered to the correct audiences

Interpretation content with the right semantic meaning in the user’s context

Clearly, the fundamental ways that document managers boost the value of content directly serve the valuable contributions of publishers. And it largely boils down to the value of enriching content by adding metadata, i.e. tagging, and more specifically, subject tagging or indexing. Subject indexing with a reliable and consistent vocabulary—a taxonomy—feeds findability, speed, relevant retrieval, personalization and semantic precision. For the publisher, it serves search engine optimization, various types of metrics including altmetrics, e-commerce, and linked data for educational offerings or any other collections.

In their own subtle ways, both the extensive list of journal publishers’ activities and the focused list of document managers’ strategies for adding value recognize and depend upon the key contributions of taxonomists and indexers.

[Final note: Considering their presumed importance, it is curious that “taxonomy”, “indexing”, “tagging” and “metadata” are nearly nonexistent, mentioned only with reference to the publishers’ contribution of tagging.]

Alice Redmond-Neal
Chief Taxonomist, Senior Editor
Access Innovations