Sirpa Suhonen

Interoperability as common goal

The Act on Information Management entered into force in Finland last year. The Act emphasises the improvement of the interoperability of information systems in public administration. As the role of information systems has increased in recent decades with the development of technology, the development work has focused on technical solutions. Therefore it is pleasing to notice that semantic interoperability, and not just technical interoperability, has now been set as a goal of public administration.

Terminologists have worked for interoperability – or for fluent communication between humans – long before the era of information systems. Terminologists can now offer this experience to help to develop semantic interoperability.

Ontologies are also connected to the development of semantic interoperability. Even simple ontological structures can support content description and information retrieval. With the help of ontologies which describe concepts and their relationships in detail, it will be possible to solve even greater semantic problems in future.

Anne Kauhanen-Simanainen – spokesperson for semantic interoperability

Anne Kauhanen-Simanainen works as a ministerial advisor in Public Sector ICT in the Ministry of Finance. She has been a member of the board of directors of the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK since the beginning of 2012.

Kauhanen-Simanainen studied political science in the University of Helsinki. During her studies she spent many summers working abroad brushing up her language skills. Later she qualified as an information specialist in an information services course organized by Helsinki University of Technology.

In the middle of the 1980’s the Finnish information society began to take form, and Kauhanen-Simanainen and her husband started a business called CIM Communication & Information Management. In 2009 she became the chief information expert in the State Treasury. At that time enterprise architecture (EA) work was started in the Ministry of Finance, and Kauhanen-Simanainen worked as the project manager in the EA project. In April 2011 she started in her current job.

Public Sector ICT steers the development of public administration information management both in the state and municipality level. Its operation is based on the Act on Information Management Governance in Public Administration which came into force in autumn 2011. The Act emphasises the development of the interoperability of information systems in the public administration. EA, and information architecture as a part of EA, are seen as solutions for achieving interoperability.

Finland is one of the leading countries in e-Government, and it became ninth in the UN’s e-Government Survey. The UN granted the Public Sector ICT a special award, Outstanding Progress in e-Government.

Kauhanen-Simanainen has many kinds of tasks that are somehow linked to the development of public administration information architecture and developing and opening public administration data reserves for public use. Information architecture work includes development of interoperability, and through that, also ontologies and public administration terminology work.

Kauhanen-Simanainen participates actively in international cooperation, e.g. in the renewal of the Directive on the re-use of public sector information, so called PSI Directive. The renewal of the PSI Directive concerns the EU’s wish to encourage nations to open data policies in common data reserves.

She discusses very often the use of terms in work. Nowadays almost every project starts by defining concepts. Terminology and ontology work both facilitate the communication between humans and machines or information systems. Kauhanen-Simanainen thinks that terminology work is closely connected to information architecture. Common terminologies act like glue between the contents. For information system interoperability it is essential to notice that mere technical interoperability is not enough but semantic interoperability is also needed, i.e. common concepts.

Basic words in Swedish special language

The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC published Basord i våra fackspråk (basic words in Swedish special language) in April 2012. The glossary is meant as a tool for terminology work, especially for definition writing, but the target group is wider than just terminologists. Defining paragraphs occur e.g. in statutes, regulations, standards and information models, and even web sites can have definitions of the organization’s basic concepts. The glossary answers questions that are not answered unambiguously in general dictionaries, e.g. what is the difference between ’competence’ and ’qualifications’.

Creating and choosing terms are also essential for terminology work. When new terms are created for new phenomena or when there are no established terms, definitions can help. Newly coined terms are often compounds. In order to be able to choose the right first or last element, one should know what the words mean.

Basord i våra fackspråk can be seen as a result from work that has been going on in the TNC from time to time since the TNC’s beginning, since 1941. John Wennerberg, the TNC’s first director, made terminological analyses of “technical basic terms” as he called them. The results were published as short essays in a Swedish technical journal. The work with technical basic terms, later called basic words, continued later in different forms. Many analyses were made in special terminology projects when it was necessary to understand the point of view of basic words in order to get on in a project. The TNC combined all the definitions compiled during the years, and published them in the Tekniska basord (technical basic words) in 1995.

Basord glossary has been compiled by using terminological methods as much as possible. Instead of delimiting the glossary in a certain subject and target group, such concepts are handled that occur in many special fields. Most of the concept analysis has been made by the TNC’s terminologists who have basic education in natural sciences, mathematics, systems science, mechanical engineering and chemistry – knowledge that has certainly been valuable. Only in few cases outside experts have been consulted, which is extraordinary since in traditional terminology projects it is necessary that special field experts participate in projects all the way. Concepts have been grouped and concept diagrams have been drawn to control that concept relationships are reflected correctly in the definitions.

HealthTerm as a translation tool in epSOS project

EpSOS ( is a pilot project for developing the interoperability of electronic healthcare services. Its goal is that the European countries could pass patient health information, especially electronic prescriptions and patient summaries, from one country to the other so that the information remains the same and that privacy protection is respected.

EpSOS started in 2008 and will end in the end of 2013. 23 countries are involved in the project, Finland joined in 2011. The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has the main responsibility for Finland’s subproject, and the Finnish social security institution Kela is responsible for the technical implementation.

The exchange of health information between countries requires that the information systems of healthcare and pharmacies of the participating nations are technically and semantically interoperable. To make information exchange possible each participating nation has to provide conversion service of national classifications and coding systems in connection with the central terminology management system used by the epSOS project. The common epSOS terminology is maintained in HealthTerm, an online management program for terminologies and classifications.

In the epSOS project centralized conversion service is also tested: the receiving country gets the information in its own language despite of in which language it is sent. This requires that the system can combine the different language versions of the used terminology. The combination takes place by linking the terms of different language versions to the terms of the Master Value Catalogue (MVC) which is formed from the English epSOS Value Sets. The MVC is saved in the HealthTerm  system and contains coding systems that describe e.g. the diagnosed disease, medical institutions and the type of conveyed document.

There are 8846 terms in the MVC at the moment. Every participating nation finds native equivalents for the MVC terms. The linking of all equivalents to the MVC makes it possible that the conversion service can automatically translate the conveyed information from any epSOS language to another epSOS language. Automatic translation of course calls for structured information.

The THL is responsible for translating the MVC into Finnish. The task is made considerably easier by the fact that most of the MVC terms are included in international medical classifications that have already been translated into Finnish (e.g. ICD-10 and ATC classifications). So there were only little more than 500 terms to be translated.

The coding systems were translated in a translation agency, but THL employees entered the terms in HealthTerm to ensure the quality of the translations and to correct the most obvious mistakes straight away. The translations are accepted one code system at a time. Each medical coding system is checked by a doctor who has specialized in the subject, and the revisers of other subject fields are also experts of their field.

The technical introduction of HealthTerm was easy. It was not necessary to purchase and install the system, only a protected Internet address, user ID and password were needed. HealthTerm has many good features in practical translation work, such as: all users have access to an up-to-date translation file, and the system can be used from anywhere there is an Internet connection and at any time. There are also some difficulties in using HealthTerm. The online instructions did not open easily because they are not linked to the workflows but the functions are described as separate blocks. In order to establish fluent working routines, it is necessary to learn the right function icons by rote and by making own notes. However, HealthTerm has proved to be a usable tool in the epSOS project.

Judicial administration terms in one place

ASSERI, the development project of judicial administration thesaurus, ended in May. The idea of a common thesaurus in judicial administration came about because there were many different index term lists used in different parts of the administrative sector, and these lists were not harmonized with each other and many needed updating. The updating of different index term lists at the same time in different places would have meant unnecessary overlapping work.

A project secretary, together with a work group of eight persons from courts of law, the prosecution service, the Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Sanctions Agency started to work in the index term list project. 26 index term lists were found in the bureaus and agencies of the judicial administration. The uses and user groups of the lists were different. These lists formed the basic term list of ASSERI, and this basic list was worked on, letter by letter. The need for each index term was discussed in order to decide whether to keep it in or discard it from the list.

It was also discussed whether the new thesaurus will be a pure thesaurus or whether it will be edited to an ontology. There is no special ontology for jurisprudence in Finland, and on the basis of ASSERI it would be possible to make one.

As the result of the project the judicial administration has a thesaurus of about 6000 terms. The thesaurus is alphabetically organized, and some terms are given definitions and references to e.g. broader, and narrower terms. However, the new thesaurus is only a basis, and it must be further developed in order to be used as the common thesaurus of the judicial administration or jurisprudence.

Finnish Geospatial Domain Ontology

Since 2010, the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK has been involved in a terminology and ontology project initiated by the National Land Survey of Finland. The overall objective of the project has been to support the implementation of the INSPIRE Directive not only through defining concepts and translating English terms into Finnish but also through compiling what will be called the Finnish Geospatial Domain Ontology (PTO).

The PTO has been constructed by extending the Finnish General Upper Ontology, based on the general Finnish keyword thesaurus, with concepts from the Vocabulary of Geoinformatics and Paikkatietohakemiston hakusanasto, a Finnish thesaurus used for content description in a spatial data discovery service.

Ontologies are an important part of the so called Semantic Web, which aims to make data  machine interpretable in order to e.g. create ”intelligent” services. Ontologies can be made use of in information retrieval. Thanks to ontologies, search engines can expand searches automatically. For example, if a user makes a search with the word ’network service’, the search engine may show him/her results related to the concepts of ’metadata service’, ’download service’, etc., as the ontology ”tells” the engine that ’network service’ is a synonym for ’web service’ and that there are several types of web services, such as metadata services.

The PTO will also be used for indexing purposes. An advantage of ontologies over traditional thesauri is that in a (properly compiled) ontology, true synonyms are marked clearly as such, and terms which refer to related concepts are listed separately. In contrast, a thesaurus may give a term (e.g. ’geographic information system’) and tell it should be used for a number of other terms (such as ’GIS’ and ’LIS’), but it is up to the user to deduce whether these non-preferred terms are synonyms for the preferred one or whether they refer to another concept.

Ontologies also help to solve cases of polysemy. Thanks to the hierarchical view of an ontology, the user sees clearly the superordinate concepts of each concept, which makes it easier to choose e.g. the desired ’geometry’ concept out of the two possible (geometry as a science vs. geometry referring to the shape of a geographic feature). At the same time, it becomes easier to choose the most appropriate hierarchy level for each indexing case.

The first version of the PTO will be published in the Finnish Ontology Library Service ONKI ( by the end of the year 2012. After the publication, ontology work will be continued by transforming into ontology format concepts and terms derived from the INSPIRE Directive and the related data specifications.


Glossary of Concrete Terms
The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC and the Swedish Concrete Association have published the Glossary of Concrete Terms: Swedish-English. The glossary contains 768 concepts connected e.g. to the making, reinforcement and casting of concrete, and concrete products. Most of the concepts are defined in Swedish and given terms in Swedish and English. The glossary is arranged alphabetically according to the Swedish terms, but the glossary contains also an English-Swedish index.

Translation Projects – General Guidance
The International Organization for Standardization ISO has published a technical specification ISO/TS 11669 Translation Projects – General Guidance in May. The specification provides general guidance for all phases of a translation project. Its main goal is to improve communication among all parties that participate in a project, from those who request translation service to those who use the final translation product. The specification has three annexes: translation project specifications and phases, terminology work and machine translation.

SFS standards
The Finnish Standards Association SFS has published the following standards as Finnish translations (the standards can be ordered from ):

Wastewater treatment
SFS-EN 1085 Wastewater treatment. Vocabulary contains 274 concepts on wastewater, wastewater collection and treatment. The concepts are defined in English, German and French, and they are given terms also in Finnish.

Ventilation for buildings
SFS-EN 12792 Ventilation for buildings. Symbols, terminology and graphical symbols contains 400 concepts that are defined and given terms in Finnish and English. In addition, the standard contains 165 quantities and other attributes with their symbols and units, and also graphical symbols.

Solid recovered fuels
SFS-EN 15357 Solid recovered fuels. Terminology, definitions and descriptions contains 132 concepts that are defined and given terms in Finnish and English. The terms are used in the production and trade of solid recovered fuels that are prepared from non-hazardous waste.

Refrigerated display cabinets
SFS-EN ISO 23953-1 + A1 2012-03-26 Refrigerated display cabinets. Part 1: Vocabulary contains 76 concepts that describe refrigerated display cabinets used for the sale and display of foodstuffs, cabinet shapes, parts, dimensional and operating characteristics and test environment. The concepts are defined and given terms in Finnish, English and French. There are also some illustrations.

Detailed publisher and order information can be found in the Finnish article.