The goal of single-window metadata search has been common across polar science and research communities for decades. Given the diversity of nations, institutions, and scientific communities that collect data in the polar regions, that goal has so far largely eluded us. As a result, there are close to 100 metadata catalogues that host large numbers of metadata records relevant to polar researchers. This fragmentation makes it difficult for potential data users to find the most relevant data they need.
POLDER is a working group of the Arctic Data Committee (ADC), Standing Committee on Antarctic Data Management (SCADM), and the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), tasked with exploring ways to make federated search achievable for this technologically fragmented international community. Federated search allows users to search multiple metadata catalogues simultaneously, while avoiding many of the technical challenges associated with duplicating and translating metadata records between different standards. These challenges include mismatches between vocabularies and the difficulty in keeping translated metadata records up-to-date when the original record is amended.
After extensive exploration, POLDER has settled on schema.org as a potentially lightweight interchange format for metadata, as it can be easily implemented by source catalogues to broker their metadata standards to a common framework that can be easily indexed by a central search tool. We are contributing to the development of a pilot federated search tool by the World Data System's International Technology Office and negotiating a best practice guidance for implementing schema.org by source catalogues.
Credit: Sebastiaan Swart