Copyright (c) 2002, 2005 Toomas Karmo. Revision history: 20050801T191433Z/version_0001.1000 (demoted the piece to a minor add-on in my proclaimed business vision, by adding framing words on Peak Oil); 20020810approx/version_0001.0000 (made this piece the centre of my proclaimed business vision, in ignorance of the Peak Oil issue). Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2, or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. In the terminology of the License, this document has no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. The definitive machine-readable copy of this document is in the "Literary" section of A copy of the License is included in a hyperlinked section, entitled GNU Free Documentation License, of the machine-readable copy.

Applied Information Science,
Especially Indexing and Metatagging,
in Astrophysics:
A Modest Business Dream

Only when appropriately equipped with tools for search and retrieval can astrophysicists benefit from the explosion in scientific publishing. I sometimes dream of helping craft such tools, for the most part as a practicing indexer, but more generally as a practicing freelance information engineer working with specific documents under contract. (I have a background not only in astronomy and physics, but also in formal logic and computer science. Nevertheless, it is as a document-by-document, dollar-by-dollar freelance practitioner, rather than as an information scientist in tenured academe, that I'd dream of making my contribution.) A few years ago, I directed much of my personal professional-development effort toward the traditional back-of-book alphabetical index. With each successive semester in my self-training, I was strengthened in my conviction that the exacting intellectual traditions of book indexing have a role in the emerging Web- (specifically, XML-) empowered commonwealth of scientific authors and scientific readers. Traditional indexers may, in particular, prove themselves indispensable in crafting content-characterizing metatags for scientific journal articles on the Web.

I look forward to the advent of the "Semantic Web", with semantically informed markup, layered on XML, providing retrieval at a level of intelligence beyond today's blindly robotic <META>-tag-driven search engines. Before I awoke in 2003 to the problem of Peak Oil, I used to dream of participating in Semantic Web development efforts in some small way. I told myself that I would bring to the developers' table the combined perspective of a practicing astronomer and a practicing indexer. Further, I would bring to that table an unusual set of quasi-mathematical skills: I am a Linux enthusiast since 1995, a sometime LISP/Prolog student, and a sometime Oxford-schooled contributor to quantified modal and tense logic.

In this era of Peak Oil, I undertake many commercial tasks (hands-on astrophysical data acquisition; popular astronomy lecturing and writing; multilevel editing in various technical disciplines, even outside astronomy; computer work, especially in Linux), and am happy to do more indexes as part of that mix.

Much of my working month is spent not in business at all, but in substantive science, as a volunteer research assistant at the David Dunlap Observatory in the University of Toronto. I am, in other words, not a pure spectator in the astrophysical community, but, in my cheerfully modest way, a worker. That assurance of personal scientific engagement may prove significant in some commercial assignments.