[Tdwg-tag] Why should data providers supply search and query services?

Steven Perry smperry at ku.edu
Tue Mar 28 18:04:55 CEST 2006

I haven't examined Amazon's offerings, but we have been looking into two 
different approaches that also use Information Retrieval (search engine) 
technologies for serving and searching RDF.  The first is Google Base 
and the second is a custom server built on top of the Apache Lucene 
search engine.  Overall I think the Information Retrieval (IR) approach 
is very fast and elegant and provides an alternative to SPARQL queries 
for locating RDF-based biodiversity data. 

One difficulty however is in integrating the IR approach into a 
web-service oriented architecture.  Another is that, while the IR 
approach yields search results much faster than SPARQL queries do, it 
introduces the classic IR problems of precision (are the results 
relevant) and recall (are all relevant results retrieved).


Roderic Page wrote:

>A belated comment on Roger's question about search at the start of the  
>month. I think we could look at OpenSearch (http://opensearch.a9.com/),  
>which is a simple format for searching. It provides a standard way to  
>describe a search engine, and tags to add to the results (which are  
>formatted in RSS or Atom). If providers output RSS 1.0 containing RDF  
>(which will be trivial to do if they've already got LSIDs working),  
>then for minimal effort basic searching can be supported.
>Long term, more specialised searches would be highly desirable, but  
>this is a quick way to get stuff up and running that is also  
>discoverable and usable by others (e.g., Amazon's A9 search engine).  
>OpenSearch seems to be gaining momentum, Microsoft's IE 7 supports it,  
>for example (see the link on my blog  
>http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2006/03/opensearch-and-ie7.html). Given that  
>search results are RSS, people can also view search results using news  
>feed reading software, hence in effect make their own biodiversity  
>information aggregators.
>Last year I played with an early version of OpenSearch and used it to  
>wrap the Taxonomic Search Engine, and image database we're working on,  
>and the LSUMZ's mammal collection (these no longer work as we've not  
>updated the search description to OpenSearch 1.1).
>I think this is a very easy way for providers to make their data  
>available with minimal effort, and potentially lots of benefits. Again,  
>I'd stress that we need to be more aware of what is going on in the  
>outside world, rather than focussing on solutions specific to our  
>On 1 Mar 2006, at 14:43, Roger Hyam wrote:
>>This is a little more of a controversial question that has been  
>>"Why should data providers supply search and query services?"
>>	• 	We have many potential data providers (potentially every  
>>collection and institution).
>>	• 	We have many potential data consumers (potentially every  
>>researcher with a laptop).
>>	• 	We have a few potential data indexers (GBIF, ORBIS , etc + others  
>>to come).
>>The implementation burden should therefore be:
>>	• 	Light for the providers - who's role is to conserve data and  
>>physical objects.
>>	• 	Light for the consumer - who's role is to do research not mess  
>>with data handling.
>>	• 	Heavy for the indexers - who's core business is making the data  
>> Data providers should give the objects they curate GUIDs. This is  
>>important because it stamps their ownership (and responsibility) on  
>>that piece of data. They then need to run an LSID service that serves  
>>the (meta)data for the objects they own. There work should stop at  
>>this point! They should not have to implement search and query  
>>services. They should not anticipate what people will require by way  
>>of data access - that is a separate function.
>> Data consumers should be able to access indexing services that pool  
>>information from multiple data providers. They should not have to run  
>>federated queries across multiple data providers or have to discover  
>>providers as this is complex and difficult (though they may want to  
>>browse round data providers like they would browse links on web  
>>pages). Once they have retrieved the GUIDs of the objects they are  
>>interested in from the indexers they may want to call the data  
>>providers for more detailed information.
>> Data indexers should crawl the data exposed by the providers and  
>>index them in thematic ways. e.g. provide geographic or taxon focused  
>>services. This is a complex job as it involves doing clever,  
>>innovative things with data and optimization of searches etc.
>> Currently we are trying to make every data provider support searching  
>>and querying when the consumers aren't really interested in querying  
>>or searching individual providers - they want to search thematically  
>>across providers.
>> If a big data provider wants to provide search and query then they  
>>can set themselves up as both a provider and an indexer - which is  
>>more or less what everyone is forced to do now - but the functions are  
>> Data providers would have to implement a little more than just an  
>>LSID resolver services for this to work. They would need to provide a  
>>single web service method (URL call) that allowed indexers to get  
>>lists of LSIDs they hold that have had their (meta)data modified since  
>>a certain date but this would be a relatively simple thing compared  
>>with providing arbitrary query facilities.
>> I believe (though I haven't done a thorough analysis of log data )  
>>that this is more or less the situation now. Data providers implement  
>>complete DiGIR or BioCASE protocols but are only queried in a limited  
>>way by portal engines. Consumers go directly to portals for their data  
>>discovery. So why implement full search and query at the data provider  
>>nodes of the network (possibly the hardest thing we have to do) when  
>>it may not be used?
>> This may be controversial. What do you think?
>> Roger
>> Roger Hyam
>> Technical Architect
>> Taxonomic Databases Working Group
>> http://www.tdwg.org
>> roger at tdwg.org
>> +44 1578 722782
>>Tdwg-tag mailing list
>>Tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
>Professor Roderic D. M. Page
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