The University of Southampton

New model to trace the origins of information

Published: 25 October 2010

The first community model capable of tracing the origins of computer-generated information is now available. University of Southampton researcher, Professor Luc Moreau, says that the new model will lead to better degrees of trust online.

The new paper entitled 'The open provenance model core specification', by Professor Luc Moreau of the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) and a community of international researchers, describes a new data model, the Open Provenance Model (OPM), designed to represent the provenance of information. The paper has just become available online at Future Generation Computer Systems.

“Provenance is a term used in diverse areas such as art, archaeology and palaeontology, which describes the history of an object since its creation,” said Professor Moreau. “Its main focus is to establish that the object has not been forged or altered, and we have found that we can now do the same with computer-generated data. By understanding where data comes from, users can decide to trust data.”

In 2006, Professor Moreau launched the Provenance Challenge series, an international, multidisciplinary activity, aiming to exchange provenance between information systems. It led to the design of the OPM, its actual use in the Provenance Challenge, and its revision according to an open-source-like community process.

The team have now developed a model which traces the origins of information and allows these provenance details to be shared between systems. The new model has already had some take-up by academia and industry. The next step is for a provenance data model of this kind to receive a seal of approval from the standardisation body.

“Provenance is well understood in the context of art or digital libraries, where it refers respectively to the documented history of an art object, or the documentation of processes in a digital object's life cycle,” said Professor Moreau. “Interest in provenance in the e-science community is also growing, since it is perceived as a crucial component of workflow systems that can help scientists ensure reproducibility of their scientific analyses and processes.”

The open provenance model core specification paper and full list of authors is available at:, and related specifications can be found at


This research takes place in the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia research group of ECS. You can find further information about PhD opportunities in the School on the ECS Research Admissions page.

For further information about this news story contact Joyce Lewis.

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