Global Change Assisted Search for Knowledge (GC-ASK)
National Agricultural Library
Information Systems Division
10301 Baltimore Boulevard
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2531
The Global Change Assisted Search for Knowledge (GC-ASK) prototype
program now being implemented is the second of a series of incremental
developments to provide the Global Change community with a comprehensive
set of tools for accessing and exploiting diverse, distributed databases
via the Internet. It builds upon the results of the "Thesaurus Pilot
Project 1993",which provided a proof-of-concept for comprehensive
searching of text databases. GC-ASK will provide a commercial,
off-the-shelf ( COTS) based foundation for further development within and
among the participating agencies.
Background: The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was
established to observe understand, and predict global change and its
consequences, and how to mitigate these impacts. Nine participating
Federal agencies formed an inter-agency working group, the Global Change
Data and Management Working Group (GCDMWG), to promote cooperation with
each other, academia, and the international community in developing a
Global Change Data and Information System (GCDIS). One of the several
GCDIS pilot programs to manage global change data and information is the
Assisted Search for Knowledge (ASK), a prototype system that will link
data systems diverse in format and content, while enabling users with
different skills, needs, and access methods to obtain relevant information
using natural language inquiry and a common user interface. The design is
open and extensible, and will demonstrate the GCDIS mission using software
which is COTS client/server, and adheres to common standards.
Concept: The GC-ASK will be open and extensible, facilitate incremental
exploitation of the technology advances, adhere to common standards, and
be accessible via the World Wide Web over the Internet. The major
objective is to link the existing services of heterogenous data and
information resources in a distributive, evolutionary environment. It is
intended to complement, and not to duplicate or conflict with existing
systems. GC-ASK will accommodate the needs of a broad range of users by
providing access at multi-skill levels, via multi-paths. It will provide
extensive knowledge bases of capability to query geographically referenced
data and information, including graphics and imagery, in addition to text.
Program Structure: The GC-ASK program milestones include an initial
prototype with a graphical user interface (GUI) for end users in April
1995 and a more comprehensive system implementation in October 1995.
Following this will be comprehensive performance testing and evaluation,
and upon success, a structure which allows agencies to deploy their own
databases within the network of data accessible by users.
Future Implementation: The program structure advocated by the Working
Group is one of the agency collaboration. The architecture is designed to
enable the project to continue beyond the current prototype development.
Participating government agencies and private organizations can license
the GC-ASK server technology and implement their own information system,
which then becomes "connected" to the GC-ASK network.