INF2186: Interoperability

I came into INF2186 knowing a fair bit about metadata and its importance, but one concept that I hadn’t really considered, despite being around it in action for years, was metadata standards and interoperability. Data interoperability is something we talk about all the time in GIS systems (the Data Interoperability extension, allowing legacy formats and files created in other programs to be opened in ArcGIS, is a must-have!), but I didn’t realize that metadata interoperability is crucial to the catalogues that we access most of our data through. Turns out I was contributing to that interoperability over the years I’ve worked at MDL by creating metadata just by filling out the fields in our data inventory (not realizing at first it was ISO 19139-compliant!) and in turn by writing documentation for our staff members to clarify what should be entered into each field, and how.

Here’s an example of a metadata record in our data inventory. This is a historical climate dataset for Canada, stored as annual, national-scale raster files for use in GIS software. These are the metadata properties we display to users:

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These provide information about the producer and nature of the dataset, its spatial reference parameters, licensing details, and include keywords and a description for discoverability. These properties are set with freeform text fields, date fields compliant with W3c-DTF, and picklists of our own internal taxonomy vocabularies. There are a few more metadata properties that aren’t visible here, including one YES/NO property that allows our metadata to be harvested by Scholars GeoPortal. Here’s what the same dataset looks like over there (alas, I can’t permalink it):

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Check out that bounding box created with the tool I mentioned in my previous post!

If we click on the “Details” button, we get to see the formatted metadata that was harvested from the MDL inventory.

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Some of these fields, including contact information, are populated based on the fact that the metadata pertaining to this dataset was harvested from the MDL record. But hey, this is interoperability at work! I didn’t really understand how this harvesting worked before I took this course, I just knew that it did, so that’s one more thing at work I have a better understanding of thanks to INF2186.