Technical Report Results

Technical Report TR618:
A Survey of Data Provenance Techniques

Yogesh L. Simmhan, Beth Plale, Dennis Gannon
(Aug 2005), 25
[Shorter version of paper to be published in ACM SIGMOD Record, September 2005]
Data management is growing in complexity as large-scale applications take advantage of the loosely coupled resources brought together by grid middleware and by abundant storage capacity. Metadata describing the data products used in and generated by these applications is essential to disambiguate the data and enable reuse. Data provenance, one kind of metadata, pertains to the derivation history of a data product starting from its original sources.

The provenance of data products generated by complex transformations such as workflows is of considerable value to scientists. From it, one can ascertain the quality of the data based on its ancestral data and derivations, track back sources of errors, allow automated re-enactment of derivations to update a data, and provide attribution of data sources. Provenance is also essential to the business domain where it can be used to drill down to the source of data in a data warehouse, track the creation of intellectual property, and provide an audit trail for regulatory purposes.

In this paper we create a taxonomy of data provenance techniques, and apply the classification to current research efforts in the field. The main aspect of our taxonomy categorizes provenance systems based on why they record provenance, what they describe, how they represent and store provenance, and ways to disseminate it. Our synthesis can help those building scientific and business metadata-management systems to understand existing provenance system designs. The survey culminates with an identification of open research problems in the field.

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