Frequent Questions

What is the vision for the System of Registries (SOR)?

The System of Registries (SOR) uses meaning and semantics to unlock the complexity of environmental information in a consistent way, so the knowledge gained can be used to empower decision makers, across government, industry and academia, resulting in greater protection of human health and the environment.

SOR supports EPA's business by contributing to its architecture, system development, and the EPA's ability to understand and exchange environmental information among its various programs and with its partners. The SOR will help promote reuse of data, metadata, and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) components. For example, the it contains a registry of chemical identifiers to ensure consistent use of chemical information across EPA. This registry maps the various ways a chemical could be identified (e.g., common name, chemical formula, chemical name) to a single EPA-wide authoritative identifier.

Focusing on Services
The SOR is a tool which allows EPA data management staff and data owners to better document, organize, and manage data. The importance of the registries lies in their ability to facilitate services dedicated to improving data access and quality.

Preparing for the Semantic Web
A major focus of the SOR is to help prepare EPA for Semantic Web technologies. This transition will require a major shift in the way data is managed and, in fact, in the way data is considered. The underlying meaning of data must become its critical characteristic rather than its format or the terms relating to it.

The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current World Wide Web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. For the Semantic Web to function, computers must have automated access to collections of information and to rules that they can use to process them.
Just as current search engines can now search across documents on the web and find words that have been specified as the search criteria, Semantic Web search engines will be able to find information in databases as well as documents based on specified meanings and not just search terms. In order for this to occur, data must be associated with its meaning in such a way that automated tools and machines can process it without direct human intervention.

Bringing Meaning to Data
Terms and concepts are described by definitions. All three of these (terms, concepts, and definitions) are used to assist us in managing meanings. Ultimately, data objects with the same specific meaning should be associated with each other and that meaning. Managing terms and concepts ensures that items with the same meaning, regardless of how they are represented, will be related. It will also ensure that items not the same will not be confused with each other.
Used together all the registries help to move beyond the restrictions of data names and codes to the essential meaning of the data. This allows for discovery and use of data actually related to the same concepts with widely varying names, definitions, codes and types.

Managing Concepts
A key functionality of the System of Registries is an ability to register, map, and manage concepts used in EPA and partner systems. These concepts represent various objects and characteristics that are used within EPA and its community of partners. Through the associations of like concepts, searching and understanding of items within the System of Registries will be enhanced. Since many concepts are represented by multiple terms, it is necessary to document the meaning of each concept. It is also necessary to document each concepts various relationships.
Documenting and organizing EPA information assets via their concepts will span the continuum from values in a database to aggregations of information in documents. It is a powerful approach to information management which was impossible before the advent of modern registry tools.

Promoting Reusability
Understanding and documenting the meanings of EPA information assets enables appropriate reuse. This reuse ranges from well-formed data definitions to models and to standards and services. This enabling of reusability enhances efficiency and quality and reduces cost.
Understanding the meanings also assists in minimizing misuse of EPA information assets. The System of Registries will help system developers, architects, and other users to find things to reuse. Registries provide information about meaning, quality, and intended purpose of an asset. They provide you with sufficient information to know whether or not the asset should be reused for your specific purpose.

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