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EML Survey Response Summary Report

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Issue: 
Spring 2005

- Mark Servilla (LNO)

INTRODUCTION

The Fall 2004 LTER Network Information Manager's meeting held in Portland, Oregon provided the venue to solicit responses for an ad-hoc survey on the resources required by each LTER research site to implement a strategy for generating EML. In turn, the LTER Network Office Network Information System group responded to the survey data with a list of five recommended actions:

  1. Generate EML based on the current Data Table of Contents (DTOC) database and sufficient to meet Level 1 compliance as defined within the LTER Network EML Best Practices.
  2. Generalize and archive the FCE Microsoft Excel template and PERL conversion software for use by other sites.
  3. Design and implement an EML Virtual Help website for an open discussion forum and a more static Frequently Asked Questions document.
  4. Design and implement a form-based EML editor that compensates for features lacking in Morpho 1.5.
  5. Design and implement a workshop (or a series of workshops) that provides specific information on EML tools such as editors, programming concepts (e.g., PERL), XSLT, XML Schema, and EML strategies for RDBMS metadata storage.

Each site was requested to prioritize the list of actions, and to provide any additional comments on the topic. The following report summarizes this effort.

METHOD

Nineteen of the 26 LTER Network research sites responded to the final request for prioritizing; responses varied from brief statements of need, simple prioritized lists, to prioritized lists augmented with additional requests for resources and/or comments regarding the purpose of EML. Ranking was measured from 1 to 5 in order of lowest to highest priority (where the ranking could be defined). Many sites responded with only a single priority action and/or an action that was not part of the original set – in this case, a ranking of 0 was given to each action not evaluated by the site and the highest value given to the single selection. Actions not in the original list were noted outside of the ranking in text. Analysis of ranking was divided into three categories:

  1. All responding sites (Figure 5-1)
  2. Those sites currently generating EML (Figure 5-2)
  3. Those sites that are not generating EML at this time (Figure 5-3)

Figure 5-1- Ranking of actions by all respondents.

Figure 5-1- Ranking of actions by all respondents.

 Figure 5-2- Ranking of actions by those site without EML

Figure 5-2- Ranking of actions by those site without EML.

Figure 5-3- Ranking of actions by those sites with EML

Figure 5-3- Ranking of actions by those sites with EML.

DISCUSSION

In all cases, the highest ranked action was for an EML Virtual Help Desk to be available through the LNO website, while the lowest ranked action was the addition of a new EML Editor. The EML Virtual Help Desk has the potential to benefit all sites by providing short-term and long-term assistance through an FAQ and non-moderated forum. A new EML Editor tool, however, would require considerable resources and time – thus, reducing the benefit to those sites needing immediate assistance with EML, and likely not applicable to those sites already generating EML.

For sites that do not currently generate EML, the second and third highest ranked actions were for standardization of the FCE Excel to EML tool and the conversion of the LTER Data Table of Contents to EML, respectively. Providing EML specific Workshops was ranked only slightly higher than providing a new EML Editor tool. It is assumed that standardizing the FCE Excel to EML tool would provide a short-term solution and a well-known interface for entering metadata and generating EML; one that could be used by site IMs as well as researchers and staff without the direct assistance of the LNO. The conversion of DTOC to EML by the LNO would also provide a method for sites to quickly achieve entry level EML without excess effort. One survey respondent commented that having LNO perform the DTOC to EML conversion may only prolong the absence of more complete EML by providing valid, albeit sparse, content.

The second and third highest ranked actions for those sites that currently generate EML were EML specific workshops and the FCE Excel to EML tool, respectively. The conversion of DTOC to EML was ranked equal to the lowest priority action of a new EML Editor tool. In this case, EML specific workshops appear to have greater appeal when there is no immediate need for an EML generating solution – such workshops may advance the understanding of current tools and/or the general design and use of EML, but may not necessarily provide an EML generating quick-fix.

Many respondents mentioned the need to develop a standardized relational database model for storing metadata; one that would include both a simple entry form and the means to generate EML. Development of such a model by the LNO has the benefits of “economies of scale” for distribution, installation, and maintenance, as well as providing a better metadata management solution for those sites without such a system. Note that the LNO does not currently have a relational database model for storing metadata, and would require time to study and propose a model. At this time, the LNO does not recommend local installation of the KNB Metacat due to the lack of tools that can access and exploit information within the Metacat.

PROPOSED ACTION PLAN AND/OR STATUS

  1. The LNO NIS group proposes the immediate development of an EML Virtual Help Desk that includes a Frequently Asked Questions section to be populated with common questions/answers about EML and an online forum that allows questions and answers to be posted without direct moderation. The LNO recognizes that success of an EML Virtual Help Desk depends greatly on input from expertise within the LTER community, and perhaps beyond. The LNO will prepare an executive summary of this effort, and include a preliminary schedule of development and release.
  2. The FCE Excel to EML tool has already been reviewed by the LNO NIS group and is currently available through the LTER CVS at http://cvs.lternet.edu. Both FCE and the LNO are updating the tool as necessary to provide needed functionality and bug-fixes. The LNO will also maintain a sampling of completed Excel documents provided by sites as examples for other users.
  3. The LNO, in collaboration with KNB, has provided an EML Metadata Workshop oriented to information managers that was held 2-4 February 2005 at the LNO in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Eight LTER Information Managers attended this workshop (refer to http://knb.ecoinformatics.org/knbworkshop2.jsp). The LNO will survey he LTER community to ascertain the need for additional workshops.
  4. The LNO is currently reviewing the LTER Data Table of Contents, in conjunction with other site specific metadata, to determine the feasibility of a DTOC to Level 1 EML conversion (refer to LTER EML Best Practices at http://cvs.lternet.edu/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/emlbestpractices/ for a complete description of Level 1 EML). Dr. Inigo San Gil, the LTER/NBII Senior Support Analyst, is in the process of updating all DTOC HTML to XHTML for an initial proof-of-concept conversion of DTOC to EML using XSLT. A brief report of this study will be available in the near future.
  5. Due to the low ranking for the development of a new EML Editor tool, the LNO will not address this action in the immediate future. The LNO, however, will evaluate the level of effort to modify the KNB Morpho, an open-source EML editor, to meet the needs of the LTER Network. This evaluation will take place as time permits, but no formal schedule will be outlined at this time.
  6. The LNO will immediately begin to evaluate the level of effort required to design and implement a relational database model for metadata management specifically oriented to the LTER community. In addition to the relational database design, this model will include an input interface and an output report generator that will create text, HTML, and EML-based documents. The LNO will prepare an executive summary of this effort, and include a preliminary schedule of development and release.