The International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) is an informal group of over 35 organizations, with representation from Europe, the Americas and Africa that has been meeting since 2006 to scope and implement data interoperability approaches to CWAs. The strategic aim of ICAN is to share experiences and to find common solutions to CWA development, whilst ensuring maximum relevance and added value for the end users. One of its major goals is to help build a functioning digital atlas of the global coast based on the principle of sharing distributed information. This will be achieved by organizing a cooperative interoperability network to integrate locally-maintained CWAs from around the world, across a variety of thematic areas, to help optimise decision making on different levels.
Via the expertise of its members, ICAN intends to inform, guide and influence in a coherent manner on matters related to research, development and use of coastal web atlases. ICAN is developing several products for this purpose, such as user and developer guides, handbooks and articles on best practices, information on standards and web services, expertise and technical support directories, education, outreach, and funding opportunities, etc. Furthermore, it will encourage and help facilitate global operational interoperability between coastal atlases in order to enhance data and information sharing among users. Further information on ICAN is available at http://ican.science.oregonstate.edu/.
The ICAN initiative is currently overseeing the development of a prototype to demonstrate interoperability between the Oregon Coastal Atlas (OCA) and the Marine Irish Digital Atlas (MIDA). These two atlases utilise similar technology to provide interactive access to spatial data, while also complying with national and international metadata standards. The prototype allows a user to search both atlases using terms that differ semantically but essentially mean the same thing, and returns the metadata of all datasets matching the search criteria. This is facilitated by the use of ontologies which are used to describe and link atlasesí terminologies in a consistent way, and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) catalogue services which allow standardised metadata search and access.
The activities carried out in ICAN can inform the development of data and atlas services in different parts of the world, but also have implications for global spatial data infrastructures and other Internet mapping projects.