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Last modified: September 27, 2000
ParlML: A Common Vocabulary for Parliamentary Language

[May 04, 2000] ParlML: A Common Vocabulary for Parliamentary Language. The European Parliament's Task Force on Information and Document Managament recently issued a call for 'expressions of interest' in connection with a proposed development effort for a markup language for parliamentary texts and information. The markup language would be "ParlML: A Common Vocabulary for Parliamentary Language." The document lays out the importance for parliamentary democracies of well-structured, humanly-understandable and machine-accessible, information. Specifically, the purpose of the public call for expressions of interest "is to assess the level of interest in, and possible support for, the creation of a specific markup language for legislative and parliamentary work. On the basis of expressions lodged, a preliminary study could be undertaken by the interested partners to explore the whole range of XML standards (XML schema, DOM, XML and RDF in particular) with a view to developing a formal language definition. The advantages of such a markup language would be to: (1) facilitate the identification of equivalent actors and actions; (2) ease the access to and the exchange of, information on common themes, procedures and activities; (3) transcend the language barrier as markup could be language neutral and language-independent; (4) aid research and research institutions; (5) strengthen possibilities of legislative tracking and thus public interest in parliamentary work." Parliaments (in particular their IT, information, documentation and/or library services) are invited to respond to this call by submitting information about the extent of their own investigations into XML or indications of their interest; any agreed or projected plans; indications of development or deployment timeframes; indications of resources committed; interest in a collaborative approach; any other information, working documents or studies on possible use of XML. Expressions of interest should be posted, preferably in English or French, exclusively in electronic form, on the discussion forum web site of the European Parliament."

A Common Vocabulary for common building blocks: [A key to the meeting the challenges of the task force] "could be to agree a common structure - an information architecture - or at least a common vocabulary that can describe that structure. If parliamentary information systems are all built from similar 'building blocks', identifying these blocks in a similar fashion will go a long way to allowing greater integration and exchange. However, divergent and mutually unintelligible information coding and management standards have always made this a difficult objective to attain. Language diversity (both human and IT) in different systems and Parliaments, merely adds another level of complication. The 'XML family' of data markup and management standards now offers a realistic way forward: although some standards within this family are not yet complete, there has been sufficient stability and clarity regarding their scope to encourage interest groups to choose XML as a basis to establish their interest-specific markup languages (many are already defined). The standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the standards advocacy group, OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), both encourage such approaches. Many have stressed that early development and adoption are key to marking out a common 'information territory' before an onslaught of vocabularies emerge and Parliaments, and others, are left to find a second-best designed for another purpose. Unlike the limited opportunities offered by the fixed tag-set of HTML, XML explicitly encourages the creation of specific markup languages that meet the information management needs of a specific 'community'. Similar in this respect to (and formally speaking, a derivative of) the ISO standard SGML, XML does not have many of the inconveniences and bulk of the former, as can be seen by the speed of its adoption and the variety of tools on offer already..."

The scope of the ParlML effort "is potentially global, useable to any parliament (or indeed any sub-national or supranational assembly). The role of European parliaments (and the European Parliament) is nonetheless particularly important because of: (1) the wide linguistic range in a small geographical region; (2) the additional supranational layer that the European Union represents, with its specific legislative procedures and links with national Parliaments, governments and legisatures. In addition, the experience of collaboration in a multilingual environment is particularly valuable, including work on the Eurovoc multilingual thesaurus."

Project background: in January 2000, a Task Force was set up in the European Parliament's secretariat to draw up proposals and timetable necessary for the implementation of a series of principles -- laid out in a decision of the Secretary General -- governing the production and management of documents and information in the Parliament. Further information on the establishment of the Task Force and on its mandate is provided in several online documents. The work of the Task Force on Information and Document Management is now under way. The membership will be publishing a range of its working and discussion papers, and will be soliciting feedback." Questions/comments regarding this work may be directed to the Task Force Coordinator, Peter Pappamikail (DG I).


  • ParlML Home Page

  • Information and Document Management Task Force - Refeence Page

  • Task Force Overview and Mandate

  • Online discussion forum

  • Mission of the Task Force

  • Task Force Members

  • European Parliament multilingual Web service: EUROPARL

  • [September 27, 2000] Peter Pappamikail (Head of Information Resources Management European Parliament) recently posted an announcement updating the EC's ParlML project and its funding. 'ParlML' is a proposed XML-based 'Common Vocabulary for Parliamentary Language'. In the original call for participation, a preliminary study was outlined "to be taken by the interested partners to explore the whole range of XML standards (XML schema, DOM, XML and RDF in particular) with a view to developing a formal language definition." The report reads: "As announced at the ECPRD's ITC working party seminar last week in Paris, I met last night with representatives of the Secretariat General of the European Commission and the IDA Programme (European Commission funded programme promoting the interchange of data between administrations). I am pleased to announce that there is now an agreement in principle to finance the ParlML project and - timing and procedures permitting - to do so over the 2000 and 2001 IDA programme budgets. The project would fund work carried out under contract: (1) to agree a project methodology and terms of reference; (2) to scope the project and assess the level of work under way in this specific field, in particular work that may be aimed at seeking approval for XML tagsets with national standards bodies; (3) to create two XML meta-vocabularies: ParlML, for the markup of parliamentary texts and work; and LexML, for the markup of legislative texts. together with an 'ontology' defining the relationship between semantic elements (entity/element relationships, processes, etc.) and recommendations regarding the standards to use [ISO Topic Maps, RDF, UML, etc.]; (4) agree approval and updating mechanisms for the vocabularies and ontology. It is suggested that a 'governing body' of some description should be established to guide and validate the contractor's work, and approve the standard. Advice on different possibilities and approaches will be sought over the coming weeks. My service (with as much help as I can muster) must now prepare terms of reference and technical requirements for approval by the IDA programme management board, by mid November at the latest. I will be examining in the coming days, together with the rest of Parliament's IT directorate, other EU institutions and bodies, and national parliaments, the best way of proceeding. Whatever approach is agreed, speed is now of the essence if we are to benefit from funding also under the 2000 budget. If your parliament is interested in: being part of the body that would be set up to approve the standard and guide the project work; taking responsibility for one or other aspect of the work; carrying out, directly or indirectly, some aspect of the work (thus freeing project funding for other areas); providing information, support, studies or other work already undertaken in the field of XML tagset definitions; being kept informed of progress in order to be able to use the ParlML/LexML tagsets once approved.... please reply to this message and give full contact details. Such a reply is 'non binding': our concern is to assess which IT services are interested in which aspects of the project. If you have other information, comments, warnings, criticisms, praise, plase feel free to reply also."

Peter Pappamikail
Task Force on Information and Document Management
European Parliament
B-1047 Brussels, Belgium

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