BGS vocabularies are lists of standardised terms covering a range of geoscience topics.

Standardised sets of terms — also known as 'dictionaries' or 'controlled vocabularies' — within datasets reduces the ambiguity associated with data mark-up and also enables records to be interpreted by computers. These dictionaries, or controlled vocabularies, control the terms we use in describing, and supporting the description of, scientific and other observations. This also opens up more possibilities for the datasets to be used in computer-aided manipulation, distribution and long term reuse.

In certain areas, it is not always possible or agreeable for data providers to use the same terms. In such cases, controlled vocabularies can be used as a medium to which data centres can map their equivalent terms.

The BGS has a number of geoscience vocabularies:

Vocabulary structure

Our controlled vocabularies, or dictionaries, generally contain the following information for each term as a minimum:

Our vocabularies are version controlled and we keep a record of all changes.


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