structure and is another example of success. The NSDI was prompted by an Executive Order issued by President Clinton in 1994, which also called for “development of a National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, spatial data standards, a National Digital Geospatial Data Framework and partnerships for data acquisition.”1 The NSDI enables sharing of geographical information, elimination of redundancies, and other significant benefits. Some other success stories, perhaps less well known, are presented here.


Freebase is a large, collaboratively edited database of crosslinked data developed by Metaweb Technologies. Freebase has incorporated the contents of several large, openly accessible data sources, such as Wikipedia and Musicbrainz, allowing users to add data and build structure by adding metadata tags that categorize or connect items.2 To date, most of the information in Freebase relates to people and places, though it can accommodate a wide range of data types, including research data.

Freebase is intended to be an important component of the Semantic Web, allowing automation of many Web search functions and communication between electronic devices (New York Times, 2007). However, Freebase has quality issues, omissions, errors, and redundant information—most of its information is not truly integrated. While Freebase is a success in some respects (community contributions have led to large volumes of information and it is possible to get useful answers to some queries), it cannot guarantee accurate and complete answers. Overall, Freebase demonstrates a novel mechanism for data aggregation, but it has not yet solved many of the challenges of information integration.


Melbourne Health, a healthcare provider in Melbourne, Australia, envisions building a generic informatics model for beneficial collaboration across organizations and expansion to other research areas (Bihammar and Chong, 2007). Melbourne Health’s original goal was to link the databases from seven hospitals and two research institutes for multiple disease research. The challenges in this work come from the large amount of data, the paucity of data standards, poor interoperability between databases, and the need to ensure compliance with ethical, privacy, and regulatory norms.


Quoted from Accessed May 5, 2010.


Available at Accessed October 23, 2009.

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