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Interoperability and information discovery

January 1, 2001

In the context of information systems, there is interoperability when the distinctions between separate information systems are not a barrier to accomplishing a task that spans those systems. Interoperability so defined implies that there are commonalities among the systems involved and that one can exploit such commonalities to achieve interoperability. The challenge of a particular interoperability task is to identify relevant commonalities among the systems involved and to devise mechanisms that exploit those commonalities. The present paper focuses on the particular interoperability task of information discovery. The Global Information Locator Service (GILS) is described as a policy, standards, and technology framework for addressing interoperable information discovery on a global and long-term basis. While there are many mechanisms for people to discover and use all manner of data and information resources, GILS initiatives exploit certain key commonalities that seem to be sufficient to realize useful information discovery interoperability at a global, long-term scale. This paper describes ten of the specific commonalities that are key to GILS initiatives. It presents some of the practical implications for organizations in various roles: content provider, system engineer, intermediary, and searcher. The paper also provides examples of interoperable information discovery as deployed using GILS in four types of information communities: bibliographic, geographic, environmental, and government.