The experiences and best practices from the EU's INSPIRE initiative to increase the sharing and reuse of geographic information, could be of use to others working on frameworks for harmonising and reusing data. A recent evaluation report details how the INSPIRE community organised itself to develop and agree on data specifications, registries, metadata, reference systems and other tools.
The INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community) project aims to make Europe's spatial and geographical information more accessible. Since 2007 its growing community of geographic information specialists have come up with a conceptual model, defining some 25 elements needed to achieve data interoperability. It includes methods and tools such as registries, coordinate reference systems and metadata.
Inspire's approach to interoperability is described in detail in the report 'A Conceptual Model for Developing Interoperability Specifications in Spatial Data Infrastructures'. It was published on the EC's Inspire website on 25 April 2012.
The report describes the development of specifications for interoperability. The description includes the relevant actors and the workflow - from collecting user requirements to documenting and testing the specifications that emerge from this process. Announcing the report, the INSPIRE project says it is "a valuable reference guide for decision makers, public administrations and scientists for the definition and implementation of data harmonisation frameworks."
As in many public administration domains, the sharing and reuse of geographic data is hampered by incomplete documentation, lack of compatibility among datasets, inconsistencies of data collection, as well as cultural, linguistic, financial and organisational barriers. The INSPIRE specialists have been working for years on ways to achieve more interoperability, allowing services to interact without manual intervention.
According to the report, INSPIRE shows that stakeholders' commitment to sharing and reuse gradually increases; they agree on terminology, models, architecture and on how to manage data. The report's authors identified that the INSPIRE model has 25 such 'interoperability elements'.
INSPIRE's "methodology can deliver tangible results even when the scope (...) is broad, involving hundreds of stakeholders from more than 30 countries and when the technical work has to be prepared in a relatively short time," the report states.