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Managing Nuclear Knowledge with Semantic Technologies

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The nuclear sector is knowledge, information and data intensive. These require sophisticated and well-planned management. The IAEA is exploring the use of innovative technologies to help overcome this problem. (Photo: IAEA) 

We now live in an era where information is accessible through our fingertips and search engines are used as portable libraries. With the past decade having seen vast technological improvements in collecting, managing, understanding, presenting, sharing and using knowledge gained from data and information all over the world, access to the latest updates have become just a web search away. Semantic technologies use a wide range of tools in a similar way the human brain does. It helps process data and information and links them together to create understanding and meaning — keeping track of analysis outcomes, in the form of a conceptual and cognitive map.

According to a new IAEA Report, semantic technology, which underpins web searches and the management of online information, can be used in the nuclear field to help experts and stakeholders maintain, preserve, link and share nuclear knowledge. “Making more use of semantic technology could address the challenge of co-ordinating and compiling information from various institutions by enhancing access to knowledge resources throughout the field on a larger scale,” said Maxim Gladyshev, an IAEA Nuclear Engineer who is responsible for the report.

Semantic technology, especially when combined with artificial intelligence, machine learning, modern taxonomies and ontologies, represents a powerful tool for managing the vast amount of nuclear data, information and knowledge.

One of the many key benefits of using semantic technology is that it improves the organisation of data and information – by linking various sources so they can be shared and reused across sectors, organisations and scientific communities. Through this improved knowledge, information and data organisation, nuclear safety standards, recommendations, experiences, best practices and previous research can become more widely available.

In research, this could have major implications: If already existing data and information can be connected to other sources using semantic technology, research and development in the field becomes easier and faster and could lead to more breakthroughs.

The IAEA is now exploring various prototypes and initiatives with potential benefits to the nuclear industry.

Nuclear knowledge management

The nuclear sector is knowledge driven and depends on sharing information and experiences in designing, constructing, operating and decommissioning nuclear facilities amongst all stakeholders. It is a major challenge to adapt a systematic approach to nuclear knowledge and make it accessible to all relevant parties and organisations on a local, as well as on an international scale. Currently, many nuclear organisations host their knowledge on portals which act as central repositories for thousands of documents with little or no metadata – of the type of data that describes and provides information on the primary resource. Without metadata, it is difficult to search and gain access to the information required. Even greater difficulty would be to establish links between diverse information resources.

The use of different standards and specifications belonging to semantic technology could provide a solution to this challenge by establishing a shared language within the nuclear community, developing a knowledge organisation system, or further building upon existing ones such as the IAEA INIS Thesaurus. It could also help in integrating different data sources together, automating indexing and much more. By capturing meaning from unstructured data and interlinking various available sources of information, semantic technology can improve the sustainability of managing nuclear’s complex and interdisciplinary systems.

“Using semantic technology in nuclear knowledge management can help build knowledge models and combine disparate information sources to support applications and services based on them,” said Gladyshev.

Metadata in India

The use of this technology by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam, India is a valuable example for how semantic technology can benefit the nuclear sector. To effectively utilise and preserve its decades of nuclear research, the Centre built a knowledge management portal. The portal was developed with features which allow relevant groups to capture tacit knowledge and obtain, store, share and use information in publications, projects, activities and much more.

“Our knowledge management system implemented with application of computational intelligence technologies has enabled us to organise memory, convert knowledge into intellectual capital, improve productivity and communication as well as create efficiency and improved safety of nuclear power plant operations,” said R. Jehadeesan, Head of the Computer Division at the Centre.

As a proof-of-concept, the IAEA also developed a pilot repository platform for knowledge and learning objects. The project revealed that as more educational organisations publish information in the repository, the richer the metadata becomes, allowing for complex queries to be asked from the data and filtering it to meet the needs of the user.

What is semantic technology?

Semantic technology includes a wide range of tools, standards and methodologies, allowing for the processing of information based on its context and meaning. To encode semantics – the meaning of a word, phrase, or text –technologies such as Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) could be successfully used to codify the metadata.

This technology allows information to be stored and managed in a way which can generate correlations and links between different pieces of data and different information resources.

“Generally speaking, information is usually confined to one system within a single organisation,” said Gladyshev. “Semantic technology, however, is invaluable because it allows systems from multiple organisations to be connected. Using a semantic-based system, users can access relevant information on their topic of interest from various sources.”

Semantic technology is used in many fields to improve organisational efficiency and help manage information to make access from various platforms easier. This means you do not have to know and search individual sources to find the information needed. Because the nuclear knowledge base is extremely large and complex, the use of this technology in the nuclear field can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its management, retrieval, and use.

Learn more about the use of sematic technologies and the ways they are being explored to better manage nuclear knowledge in: Exploring Semantic Technologies and Their Application to Nuclear Knowledge Management.

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