A volcano erupts: semantically mediated integration of heterogeneous volcanic and atmospheric data

Fox, Peter
McGuinness, Deborah L.
Raskin, Robert
Sinha, Krishna
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We present a research effort into the application of semantic web methods and technologies to address the challenging problem of integrating heterogeneous volcanic and atmospheric data in support of assessing the atmospheric effects of a volcanic eruption. This exemplary volcano eruption scenario highlights what is true for the vast majority of data intensive Earth system investigations which have limited ability to explore important and difficult problems. This is because they are forced to find and use data representing an event or phenomenon of interest through data collections at the data-element, or syntactic, level rather than at a higher scientific, or semantic, level. Even if relevant data is found in one collection, it may not be easy or possible to find similar, related data in another collection. In many cases, syntax-only interoperability IS the state-of-the-art and at best, there are some instances of hard-wired but simple semantic enhancements(e.g. a special purpose web service wrapper around the data).Scientists and non-scientists are forced to learn details of the data schema,other people's naming schemes and syntax decisions and details of differing web site interfaces. These constraints are limiting even when researchers are looking for information in their own discipline, but they present even greater challenges when researchers are looking for information spanning multiple disciplines, including some in which they are not extensively trained. The volcano eruption scenario exemplifies many of these challenges. In this paper we present research progress on how semantic enablement for scientific data integration is achieved. We present how ontologies implemented within existing distributed technology frameworks are providing essential, re-useable, and robust,support necessary for interdisciplinary scientific research activities.