Integrating Digital Information for Coastal and Marine Sciences

By Marincioni, Fausto; Lightsom, Frances L. et al. | Journal of Digital Information Management, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Integrating Digital Information for Coastal and Marine Sciences


Marincioni, Fausto, Lightsom, Frances L., Riall, Rebecca L., Linck, Guthrie A., Aldrich, Thomas C., Caruso, Michael J., Journal of Digital Information Management


Abstract: A pilot distributed geolibrary, the Marine Realms Information Bank (MRIB), was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to classify, integrate, and facilitate access to scientific information about oceans, coasts, and lakes. The MRIB is composed of a categorization scheme, a metadata database, and a specialized software back-end, capable of drawing together information from remote sources without modifying their original format or content. Twelve facets are used to classify information: location, geologic time, feature type, biota, discipline, research method, hot topics, project, agency, author, content type, and file type. The MRIB approach allows easy and flexible organization of large or growing document collections for which centralized repositories would be impractical. Geographic searching based on the gazetteer and map interface is the centerpiece of the MRIB distributed geolibrary. The MRIB is one of a very few digital libraries that employ georeferencing--a fundamentally different way to structure information from the traditional author/title/subject/keyword approach employed by most digital libraries. Lessons learned in developing the MRIB will be useful as other digital libraries confront the challenges of georeferencing.

Keywords: Distributed geolibrary, digital library, georeferencing, geospatial referencing, information categorization, coastal and marine science, U.S. Geological Survey.

Introduction

For the Earth sciences, an important development in digital information management was the introduction of the distributed geolibrary concept, delineated in a 1998 workshop organized by the U.S. National Research Council's Mapping Science Committee. The workshop published a summary report that defined a distributed geolibrary thus:

   "A distributed geolibrary is a vision for the future.
   It would permit users to quickly and easily obtain
   all existing information available about a place
   that is relevant to a defined need. It is modeled
   on the operations of a traditional library, updated
   to a digital networked world ... A geolibrary is a
   digital library filled with geoinformation--information
   associated with a distinct area or
   footprint on the Earth's surface--and for which
   the primary search mechanism is place. A
   geolibrary is distributed if its users, services,
   metadata, and information assets can be
   integrated among many distinct locations." (NRC,
   1999, p.1).

In addition to traditional library services, the workshop listed data processing among the services of a distributed geolibrary. Development of services to extract and integrate geospatial data from disparate sources, according to Goodchild (1998), would involve inter-organizational challenges associated with establishing data, metadata, and database standards as well as the technical challenge of creating GIS-like systems that work for all levels of expertise.

To provide these services for USGS Coastal and Marine Geology information, a pilot distributed digital library (the Marine Realms Information Bank--MRIB, http://mrib.usgs.gov/) is being developed. The goal of the MRIB is to organize, integrate and provide easy access to information about the coastal and marine environments, while preserving the scientific integrity of the information offered. This distributed geolibrary differs from other digital libraries in offering both geographic and subject-based searches through map and text interfaces. In particular, the MRIB: (1) enables the search and display of information by place and time, and (2) uses the Internet to connect information assets with users of the digital library, all of which remain in remote physical locations. Despite its distributed nature, the basic services of the MRIB are similar to those of a traditional library. Relevant digital information that is accessible on-line--for example, text, pictures, charts, maps, or binary data files--is cataloged by classification specialists and placed on virtual shelves designed to make it easy to browse holdings about a particular subject or location. …

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