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Dr. Michel Biezunski & Dr. Steven R. Newcomb

Topic Maps: The Inventor's Perspective on Subject-based Access

October 15, 2003

This event is co-sponsored by PSCD and the Content Management Working Group of FLICC.

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Starting in 1992, Michel Biezunski and Steven R. Newcomb created, named, standardized and pioneered the application of the Topic Maps paradigm. Biezunski and Newcomb serve as co-editors of the ISO 13250 Topic Maps standard. They also co-founded TopicMaps.Org, where they co-edited the XML syntax (the "XTM Specification") that was added to the 2002 version of the standard.

Dr. Newcomb wrote the first documentation of the paradigm in 1993, under the aegis of the Graphic Communications Research Institute (now IDEAlliance). He also drafted the ISO/IEC 13250:2000 standard itself.

Dr. Biezunski pioneered the practical application of the Topic Maps paradigm. With his "Topic Map Loom" software, he created the first industrial-strength topic maps. His work has focused on the empirical development of methodologies for solving complex information integration problems.

Newcomb and Biezunski both work for Coolheads Consulting, a consultancy specializing in semantic analysis, subject-based information integration, and the actual creation and maintenance of topic maps (and of systems for creating and maintaining topic maps), for clients in government, industry, and academia.

Dr. Newcomb will speak about the conceptual foundations of the Topic Maps paradigm. (He has drafted a statement of these foundations under the title, "The Topic Maps Reference Model".) These conceptual foundations are more abstract (less "ontologically committed"), than the Topic Maps standard. The conceptual foundations are concerned with facilitating the creation and maintenance of subject-based indexes that amalgamate other subject-based indexes. The amalgamated indexes may themselves be either collaboratively or independently created, maintained, and amalgamated, and they may be based on different ontologies and/or taxonomies. The development of an effective conceptual and methodological basis for the amalgamation of subject-based indexes speaks to several of the goals and issues of Library Science, including the "co-location" objective and the "co-referencing" problem. Perhaps the simplest way to communicate the goal of the Topic Maps Reference Model is to ask, "How can a single perspective be most easily provided for each subject, from which various independent assertions about the subject are directly available?" To put it even more briefly, "How can a master index be made from indexes that were never intended to be merged with others?"

Dr. Biezunski will speak about his vision on what the next step should be in applying the abstract foundation provided by the proposed Reference Model. He will assess, among other things, the possibility amalgamating knowledge resources (including finding tools) expressed in accordance with diverse interchange standards, by creating a new layer where semantic integration has a broader range of application. Dr. Biezunski will present his experiences in applying the Topic Maps paradigm, and their impacts on the ongoing development of his methodologies and software. He will report on the Internal Revenue Service application as a case study.


Image of Michel BiezunskiMichel Biezunski is an internationally recognized expert in the field of information management. He works as a consultant for Coolheads Consulting and is the creator of a technology called
Topic Map Loom, owned by Infoloom, Inc., that is used for creating navigable information corpora conforming to the Topic Maps standard.

Michel has a PhD in physics. He has worked as a historian and philosopher of science, where he gained experience on how to qualify knowledge. He has written 3 books (in French) on Einstein and the history of modern physics. He participated in the development of the HyTime standard, and is recognized as the inventor of the Topic Maps standard (ISO/IEC 13250), together with Steven R. Newcomb. Michel is co-editor of the Topic Maps standard. He has written many articles and developed and conducted numerous workshops centered on these new technologies.

Michel's consulting work consists of strategic consulting, as well as helping information owners to enhance their information systems by adding semantic navigation for facilitating access to the items of interest. Michel works with government agencies to implement navigation systems improving access to information.

Image of Steven R. Newcomb Steven R. Newcomb has a number of roles within the Knowledge Integration and Information Management communities:

Editor and drafter of ISO/IEC 13250:2000 and: 2003 Topic Maps International Standard, also known as "XTM" ("XML Topic Maps"), and of the Reference Model for Topic Maps (2002)

Editor of the ISO Hypermedia/Time-based Structuring Language ("HyTime", ISO/IEC 10744:1992 and :1997), and of the ISO Standard Music Description Language (ISO/IEC 10743:1996)

CEO of TechnoTeacher, Inc. from 1994-2000. Developed the pioneering HyMinder, HyBrowse, and GroveMinder implementations of the HyTime standard.

Founder and co-chair of the "Extreme Markup Languages" conference series of IDEAlliance, now in its ninth year (

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