Methodology and mechanisms for federation of heterogeneous metadata sources and ontology development in emerging collaborative environment

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Purpose: Leading-edge information and communication technology provides the base to facilitate obtaining, interoperating and federating shared metadata knowledge in collaborative networks from multiple heterogeneous data sources. The purpose of this study is to develop a methodology and a set of mechanisms to support this task in the collaborative environment. Design/methodology/approach: In this paper, the authors first identify and capture four main typical sources to find or generate metadata knowledge for shared data in emerging networked environments, including existing well-designed metadata, the typical ones are relational schemas of existing databases in the environment; fragmented metadata sources, i.e. metadata that can be realized from existing mission statements and example application scenarios in the environment, usually characterized by their fragmented, lightweight and behavior-intensive features; extracting metadata for simple labeled unstructured data, e.g. textual communications among its stakeholders; and semantic constraints on metadata, e.g. the temporal data behavior could be generated from governance policies in the environment. Second, the authors introduce their systematic methodology to the unification of the resulted metadata consisting of four semiautomated unification steps that gradually develops and enhances a unified ontology for the environment, formalized in web ontology language. Findings: The methodology steps and their corresponding mechanisms are described and exemplified in detail in this paper. Furthermore, this paper presents the outcome of applying the authors’ methodology to an example emerging case through the generation of a unified ontology for that environment. Originality/value: The addressed example application area is a real case in the field of higher education in China and therefore serves as a proof of concept and verification of the effectiveness of the authors’ proposed approach.

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VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems

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