The collection and organization of computerized technical data in the materials field present a number of interesting terminological and computer science challenges. One aspect involves developing a comprehensive, consistent, and, hopefully, an ultimately acceptable standardized terminology for the materials field. Another is the devising of practical ways in which such a terminology, when incorporated as part of a database, can be utilized in continuing data collection, organization, and accession activities. Our experience to date may be applicable to other fields of science and technology.
We have recently applied our proprietary integrated data capture system to computerize the materials data from “Military Handbook 5.” This resulted in a computerized data system of some 18 000 canonical data records, with some 500 different terms (materials, properties, and independent variables), and 15 000 allowed values for those terms (of which 500 are qualitative values). These terms, together with their definitions, hierarchical relations, and allowed values, form the core of the metadata needed to define both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the data.
Software programs, written for the data capture process, permit both the generation of canonical data records from which the database is later built and an equivalent “metabase” for the term data. This metabase can then be used in a variety of ways to improve the quality and accessibility of the materials data collection as it proceeds to be converted from the test or print status to items in a searchable database with the following advantages: 1. A consistent terminology is built directly into the database, facilitating user queries. 2. User “helps” in the form of the provision of term definitions or thesaurus relationships can be made available. 3. Linking of related exhibits or text can be programmed, not only by the equivalence of string matches but also by term relationships established in the thesaurus. 4. Data can be subjected to term and allowed value validation. 5. When bodies such as ASTM and international groups such as VAMAS and the EEC Materials Demonstrator Programme can reach agreement on materials terminology, then computerized databases will have the potential for true international accessibility.