What Is Interesting About Scientific Databases?
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Much of modern scientific research depends on databases, but do we need anything more than conventional database technology to support scientific data? One of the reasons for the development of the Grid is the sheer size of the datasets involved. This has introduced new problems for distributed data, distributed scientific programming, and the combination of the two. However there are other, equally important issues which demand new database technology. In this talk I want raise some of them.
Annotation of existing data now provides a new form of communication between scientists, but conventional database technology provides little support for attaching annotations. I shall show why new models of both data and query languages are needed.
Closely related to annotation is provenance — knowing where your data has come from. This is now a real problem in bioinformatics with literally hundreds of databases, most of which are derived from others by a process of transformation, correction and annotation.
Preserving past states of a database — archiving — is also important for verifying the basis of scientific research, yet few published scientific databases do a good job of archiving. Past “editions” of the database get lost. I shall describe a system that allows frequent archiving and efficient retrieval with remarkably little space overhead.
Finally, what do scientific databases have to do with multimedia information systems? Ostensibly nothing. However presentation of data has given us some clues about how to approach some of the problems above.