Report on Coastal Mapping and Informatics Trans-Atlantic Workshop 2: Coastal Atlas Interoperability.
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AuthorWright, Dawn J.
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AbstractFrom July 16 to 20, 2007, international partners in a trans- Atlantic workshop series on coastal mapping and informatics, held a workshop on the campus of Oregon State University entitled “Coastal Atlas Interoperability.” The workshop engaged 27 participants from 6 countries, representing 17 organizations and multiple areas of scientific and technicial expertise. This meeting was a follow-up to a successful first workshop entitled “Potentials and Limitations of Coastal Web Atlases,” hosted by the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC) at University College Cork in Ireland in July 2006 (O’Dea et al., 2007). While that first workshop examined state-of-the-art developments in coastal web atlases (CWAs) from the Europe and the U.S., shared several case studies and lessons learned, and established key issues and recommendations related to the design, data requirements, technology and institutional capacity needed for these atlases, the purpose of the second workshop was to examine best practices for achieving interoperability between CWAs. Given that no CWA functions alone as an island, and is often part of a larger universe of resources that is needed for effective marine spatial planning, resource management, and emergency planning, CWAs must build a common approach toward managing and disseminating the coastal data, maps and information that they contain. Workshop participants examined the issue of semantic interoperability (where concepts, terminology, even abbreviations that are shared between two or more individuals, systems, or organizations are understood by all to mean the same thing) and found this to be an important prerequisite for the integrated approach needed when working with a broader network of CWAs. For example, the terminology used to describe similar data can vary between specialties or regions, which can complicate data searches and integration. Use of the word “seabed” in Europe versus use of the word “seafloor” to describe the same feature in North America is a good example of this scenario, as is the interchangeable use of “coastline” versus “shoreline” in both regions. Agreements on content/semantic interoperability can help to eliminate such problems, making searches between disparate, but mutually beneficial, projects feasible. Ontologies provide the mechanism for enabling this, and workshop participants gained hands-on experience with some of the effective tools and approaches for creating ontologies and organizing them in catalogs, as presented by representatives of the Marine Metadata Interoperability (MMI) project. Presenters provided examples from use cases and ontologies based on recent research and the outcomes of the 2005 MMI Advancing Domain Vocabularies workshop (Graybeal et al., 2006). During the workshop a project was outlined to develop a demonstration prototype as a proof-of-concept to inter-relate metadata and other information between two initial CWAs (the Marine Irish Digital Atlas or MIDA, <http://mida.ucc.ie>, and the Oregon Coastal Atlas or OCA, <http://www.coastalatlas.net>). The prototype is in the form of a catalogue services for the Web (CSW), where web map services (WMS) will be registered. It may not be immediately obvious how Oregon and Ireland may need to be interoperable, but these two mature atlas efforts can be used as a testbed for interoperability. Both provide interactive access to spatial data and metadata via web GIS, use similar technologies (open source Minnesota MapServer running on Apache web services), and contain metadata meeting national/international standards (i.e., FGDC and ISO). This proof-of-concept may then be used to make connections within regional partnerships (e.g., the OCA can use lessons learned in developing a regional network of CWAs with Washington and California, while the MIDA can do the same for building and strengthening atlas networks with the UK, Belgium, and other parts of Europe). The prototype is therefore envisioned as a seed application, a template of sorts that can be used by many others and develop further from there. The workshop on “Coastal Atlas Interoperability” is another step toward long-term goals of the trans-Atlantic workshop team to provide recommendations for best practices on all aspects of coastal web mapping, and to develop a cadre of scientists who will play a leadership role in forging international collaborations and technical solutions of value to the participating nations. Toward this end, the technical experts, scientists, decision makers and practitioners of the workshops in Ireland and Oregon have now organized under the (as yet) informal International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN; see list of participating institutions in Appendix A). The strategic aim of ICAN is to share experiences and to find common solutions to CWA development whilst ensuring maximum relevance and added value for the end users. This is a mutually beneficial international activity with complementary strengths in evidence on both sides of the Atlantic, and with the additional provision of international experience for students and junior researchers. The long-term view is for global level operational interoperability which will evolve as the ICAN community strives to increase awareness of the opportunities that exist for increased coastal and marine data sharing among policy makers and resource managers as strategic users of a CWA. We see ICAN participants as playing a leadership role in forging international collaborations of value to the participating nations. A major goal is to help build a functioning digital atlas of the global coast based on the principle of sharing distributed information. We will go about this by organizing a cooperative interoperability and network project to globally integrate locally-maintained coastal atlases as the premier source of spatial reference information about the coastal zone of all coastlines throughout the world. We will do this by developing community-held constraints on mapping and presentation conventions to maximize the comparability and reliability of information about our coasts. This is done to provide a basis for rationally-informed discussion, debate and negotiation of sustainable management policies for our societies, nations and people throughout the world. This has tremendous potential to be relevant not only on both sides of the Atlantic for the North American and European partners involved, but also has implications for global spatial data infrastructures and Internet mapping projects. Based on the success of the workshop in Oregon, the European Environment Agency will host a third workshop from July 7-9, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to significantly advance these goals by examining how communities in Europe can use the recommendations and prototype developed thus far to improve their data systems’ interoperability. As a result, ICAN will: 1. exhibit the proof-of-concept conceived of at the Oregon workshop and validate first outcomes, 2. share results to inform and attract a larger population of potential stakeholders of the activity, and 3. develop a long-term strategy for effective governance of ICAN and further applications.
Publisher or UniversityOregon State University