Provenance and Trust

Provenance refers to the origins of objects. Software systems should generate provenance records for their results, containing assertions about the entities and activities involved in producing and delivering or otherwise influencing that object. By knowing the provenance of an object, we can for example make assessment about its validity and whether it can be trusted, we can decide how to integrate it with others, and can validate that it was generated according to specifications.


We are collaborating with the broader provenance community to develop general representations of provenance records through our participation in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The W3C is an international standards body for Web Architecture and promotes the establishment of community-driven activities that may lead to standardization efforts. OGC is a standards body for geospatial information. The W3C work started with the Provenance Incubator Group, with a Final Report released in December 2010, which put forward use cases for provenance on the web, outlined requirements, compared existing provenance vocabularies, and recommended the creation of a standard. The W3C Provenance Working Group was established to develop this standard, which was released as PROV on May 2013. An introductory primer and a detailed data model together with other documents about the PROV standard for this emerging standard were released on April 2013. Provenance standards could change how trust, licensing, and information integration is done on the Web. We are currently working with the OGC community to understand the specific requirements of geospatial information, analyze how PROV can be used in a geospatial context, and align PROV with other metadata standards used in the OGC community such as ISO.

The W3C Incubator Group on Provenance charted the path to possible standardization proposals in this area. The group developed more than 30 use cases and derived more than 200 requirements out of the use cases. The group also designed mappings across existing provenance models and vocabularies. The Final Report of this W3C Provenance Incubator Group includes details on the use cases, requirements, and provenance vocabulary mappings:

That report also proposed the creation of a Working Group to develop a provenance standard based on 17 core terms that were found to be common in existing vocabularies and necessary to support a broad range of the use cases collected.Based on that recommendation, the W3C Provenance Working Group was established in April 2011 to develop a provenance standard for the Web. The group has released several documents, including:

The OGC standardization work is ongoing.

Provenance standards could change how trust, licensing, and information integration is done on the Web.


Other projects include: