Knowledge Management and Environmental Informatics
(FAW - Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing,
(IICM, TU Graz, Graz Austria,
Abstract: The objective of this paper is to identify synergy
fields and relationships between knowledge management and environmental
informatics. From the perspective of knowledge management many sophisticated
techniques, concepts, and methodologies developed in the domain of environmental
informatics can build the starting point for finding answers to open questions
in knowledge management. For example, meta-knowledge management can capitalise
on existing results gained in the area of metadata management, which plays
a key role in environmental informatics. Up to now, many tools for knowledge
processing have been applied in the domain of environmental informatics
to help solve environmental problems. New knowledge management tools can
improve this situation which in turn contributes directly or indirectly
to a significant improvement of the protection of our environment. In order
to achieve its objective, the paper introduces knowledge management with
a strong focus on information technology. This introduction is followed
by a literature survey on knowledge processing in environmental applications.
Thereafter, several environmental information systems are analysed in the
light of knowledge management. A special emphasis is placed on how geographical
information systems can be used for knowledge management. Finally, the
paper closes with suggestions of further areas of research in the synergy
field of knowledge management and environmental informatics.
Keywords: Knowledge Management, Information Systems, Data Bases,
Environmetal Data, Visualization
Categories: H.1, H.2, H.3, H.4, J.3
According to a recent Ovum report, the need for knowledge management
software and infrastructure will grow from $ 285 in 1998 to $ 1.6 billion
in 2002 concerning the expenses for such systems [Woods
et al. 1998]. According to a study on knowledge management conducted
by Murray and Myers [Murray et al. 1999] 85% of companies
believe a value can be attached to business knowledge and business must
do three things effectively in the next three years - find and capture
the knowledge they have got, and share it and exploit it to some commercial
benefit. 85% of the core 100 companies agreed - "if we knew what we
know, then we would be far more productive". The result of these two
studies are representative for further similar
studies: knowledge management
has become an organisational imperative for all types of corporate, governmental and non profit organisations. The key
objective of knowledge management is to apply the knowledge which resides
either explicitly or implicitly within an organisation to achieve most
efficiently and cost-effectively the organisation's goals.
Even though knowledge management comprises three dimensions, i.e. socio-cultural,
business economic and information-technological, we focus primarily on
aspects which are related to information technology (IT). For the other
two dimensions the reader is referred to [Petkoff 1998].
The use of information technology for knowledge management is discussed
controversially: History in science shows that new technologies/methodologies
often raise too high expectations which cannot be fulfilled in the long
run. There are thinkers, who argue that the new computer age is bringing
a second flood, whereby we risk being drowned in the massive amounts of
knowledge and information. Their pessimistic view is that there is simply
too much knowledge to cope with. This view is supported by the assessment
that the collective knowledge of the emerging Information Society doubles
every five to ten years. In addition, they fear that IT-based knowledge
management drives organisations towards massive investments in IT, possibly
at the expense of investments in human capital [Borghoff
et al. 1997].
More optimistic thinkers argue that modern information technologies
provide means to bring together people even over long distances (e. g.,
by email, videoconferences etc.), they help connect the "problem owner"
to the "solution provider" and thus foster the knowledge sharing
among people. Viewed from this perspective knowledge management emerges
primarily as people and process issue which can be supported but
not replaced by IT. Of course, the optimistic thinkers are aware of the
fact that a change of culture within organisations is required: the traditional
"need-to-know" cultures are becoming obsolete and will be replaced
by "want-to-know" cultures. Such cultures require fewer hierarchies,
more freedom and empowerment of the employees which in turn provide frameworks
which support the best possible development for the employees.
Environmental informatics - the second research field addressed in this
paper - is concerned with the design and development of methodologies and
tools to manage data about the soil, the water, the air, and the species
in the world around us. According to a directive of the European Union,
almost all environmental information that is stored at public agencies
has to be made available to every citizen on demand. As a result of these
political and economic developments, there is a major demand for environmental
information and appropriate tools to manage it. Environmental information
is typically made up of a variety of different data types. In addition
to the disparity of type, environmental data objects are often quite large
in size. Therefore, support based on metadata for distributing, searching
for, retrieving and utilising this data is imperative in order for environmental
information to be used to its maximum potential benefit and effectiveness.
Against this background the purpose of this paper is to identify synergy
fields and relationships between knowledge management and environmental
From the perspective of environmental informatics, many application
domains (e.g., knowledge transfer, knowledge retrieval etc.) exist in which
knowledge management can contribute directly or indirectly to a significant
improvement of the
protection of our environment. For example, integrated
environmental information systems call for process-oriented rather than functional structures
in any type of organisation. To this end, process-oriented knowledge management
as a sub-discipline of knowledge management opens up many windows of opportunities.
From the perspective of knowledge management many sophisticated techniques,
concepts, and methodologies developed in the field of environmental informatics
are useful for all other fields of knowledge management. For example, outside
environmental informatics there are only very few research fields in computer
science which have built up such a profound and wide experience in metadata
management. And as pointed out above, it is evident that metadata management
will play a crucial role in knowledge management. Additionally, for knowledge
access and retrieval, new interactive metaphors are required simply because
the treasure of knowledge which exists in knowledge bases should not be
made accessible only through standard and inflexible text-based user interfaces.
The rapid development in the area of Internet-based geographical information
systems makes possible new interaction metaphors to access complex knowledge
bases; metaphors one could not have thought of five years ago.
To identify existing and to elaborate new synergy fields between knowledge
management and environmental informatics, the paper is structured as follows:
Section 2 introduces knowledge management with a special focus on information
technology. Section 3 gives a literature survey of
research dealing with knowledge processing and environmental applications.
According to our notion of knowledge management introduced in Section 2,
Section 4 analyses several environmental information
systems in the light of knowledge management. Section 5
illustrates how most advanced technologies in multimedia cartography and
geographical information systems can be applied for knowledge management.
Finally, Section 6 provides further areas of research
which are worth future investigations. The paper ends with a conclusion
in Section 7.
2 Information Technology for Knowledge Management
Information technology is used pervasively in organisations and thus
qualifies as a natural medium for the flow of knowledge. The application
of information technology for knowledge management helps to create, archive
and transfer knowledge. It can ensure that knowledge is meaningful (content),
relevant (context) and accurate (timely and trustworthy). Also, since knowledge
is more than passive information in isolation, IT can be applied as an
enabling technology for interaction and collaboration for a knowledge community.
However, one should be aware of the limits of information technology: the
introduction of an IT-based knowledge system will not achieve much, if
a cultural change towards knowledge values has not taken place. The highest
acceptance of a knowledge management system will be achieved if the cultural
change has raised needs and expectations first which can then be met best
with support of IT-driven knowledge management. The implementation of IT-related
knowledge management in organisations should be built on the following
cornerstones: corporate environment, knowledge retrieval and knowledge
Corporate environment, i.e. an organisation's "memory", is
about maximising the return on intellectual assets. It seeks to find, select
and organise the intellectual capital of an organisation and then present that knowledge in a way that helps
employees to comprehend and act on that information for the sake of the
customer, a product or a market.
In the old, static pattern schooling took place before work. A "good
education" was a one-time event. The emerging Information Society
has changed this pattern dramatically. Today organisations are required
to continuously extend the knowledge and skills of their employees to meet
requirements in new global markets, economies and societies. It seems evident
that knowledge transfer, i.e. the integration of lifelong education and
training in our private and working life, will play a central role in this
Knowledge at your finger-tips is certainly one of the most attractive
visions knowledge management can offer to its users. Knowledge retrieval
helps make this vision become reality. It focuses on powerful and flexible
packaging of technology, based on open paradigms for multimedia navigation,
annotation and retrieval and a fundamentally open-ended environment for
the configuration of the tools to the user's needs.
2.1. Key Aspects of Knowledge Management
The following figure shows that in a knowledge management system humans
and computers are involved. As pointed out before, knowledge management
has the aim to nurture, archive, share and increase human knowledge.
Figure 1: Key aspects of knowledge management
The arrow )
in figure 1 shows that one of the most important ways to achieve this goal
is human-to-human interaction. There exist mainly two ways to derive computerised
knowledge from human knowledge (arrow ):
a) by users explicitly inputting information and b) users implicitly creating
computerised knowledge as by-product of processes they are carrying out
anyway. Systemic actions, i.e. actions which are triggered by the system,
create computerised knowledge (arrow ).
Examples for systemic actions are known from artificial intelligence where
inference, mechanism derive new knowledge from already existing knowledge.
Two ways exist how computerised knowledge flows back to humans to create
human knowledge (arrow ):
a) by explicit queries for individual pieces of information and b) by systemic
actions, which become active according to user behaviour patterns or user
profiles. In the context of information management such actions are referred
to as push-technologies, i.e. the system pushes its information to the
user rather than the user becomes active and pulls the information from
the system. How networks play a large role in this context is sketched
in [Maurer 1998].
3 Knowledge Processing in Environmental Applications
Many papers have been published about the application of methods and
tools for knowledge processing in the domain of environmental informatics.
Most of the research places the emphasis on the application of expert systems
to help solve environmental problems. This section cannot be exhaustive
but tries to give an overview of the most relevant achievements in this
The FOREX expert system [Dorn et al. 1998] has
been developed for the management of forestries and especially for the
rehabilitation of forest ecosystems dominated by Norway spruce. The system
implements a methodology for providing foresters with concrete recommendations
of how to restore and manage forest ecosystems. Venema illustrates the
use of neural networks for waste-water purification, more precisely the
prediction of ammonia concentration in waste-water [Venema
et al. 1998]. A combination of neural and fuzzy logic is applied by
Pokrovsky [Pokrovsky 1998]. This research deals with
simulations of meteorological processes at the earth surface. It is closely
linked to global climate change investigations and to complex processes
occurring in ecosystems.
Model-based diagnosis techniques are used by [Heller
et al. 1998] to asses the situation of our ecosystem from a limited
number of observations. Such assessments are crucial moments to decide
about possible cures or symptoms treatments to put an ecosystem in a condition
that is in accordance with some specified goals.
In [Wiering et al. 1998] an intelligent system
based on reinforcement learning is described. The system supports decision
makers to control forest fires.
PRO-PLANT is a knowledge-based plant protection advisory system [Visser
et al. 1999a]. PRO-PLANT supports fungicide and growth-regulator consultations
for cereal and sugar beet productions; it also provides consultations on
herbicide usage in corn, and insecticide usage in winter rape.
Finally it is worth mentioning the XUMA-GEFA expert system [Ferse
et al. 1997]. XUMA-GEFA helps assess the environmental dangerousness
of residual waste
in industrial areas. Based on the assessment recommendations for concrete
actions can be given.
Even though many approaches exist to integrate knowledge processing
with environmental applications, one can observe that most of the systems
are at a prototype level. Only very few systems are used in environmental
organisations or are even available as a product.
4 Integrating Knowledge Management in Environmental
This section shows by representative examples in which way each of the
three knowledge management components (i.e., corporate environment, knowledge
retrieval and knowledge transfer) can be integrated in environmental information
4.1 Corporate Environments and Environmental Information Systems
The main objective of the DIWA system [Henning et al.
1999] is to build up, maintain and use a web-archive for environmental
documents (e.g., minutes, environmental regulations, environmental reports
etc.) The web-archive can be structured along thematic or organisational
aspects of the organisation which uses the DIWA system. It is independent
from any file or server system and can therefore be tailored in a way which
reflects best the structure of the corporate environment of an organisation.
The publishing component of the system allows users to make available their
documents to other users. This includes to define relevant metadata for
the documents which improves the retrieval of the documents by other users.
With the current version of the DIWA system it is only possible to explicitly
input human knowledge in the knowledge base. Mechanisms to create new knowledge
by systemic actions or as by-product of actions users carry out anyway
are not supported. Up to date corporate environments exist for two different
departments in the Ministry for traffic and environment in the Southern
State of Baden-Württemberg of Germany. One of the corporate environments
comprises the whole knowledge about unpublished but binding regulations
of the State of Baden-Württemberg while the other represents the knowledge
about the modernisation of the remote monitoring system for nuclear energy
plants in Baden-Württemberg.
H.I.R.N. (Hypertext Information Retrieval Network) is an internet-based
environmental information system for environmental regulations and laws
[Riekert et al. 1997], [Strauß
et al. 2000]. The content is provided by publishing houses. The users
of the H.I.R.N. system, however, can extend this content with their personal
interpretations and comments. Such personal comments can be made available
to all other system users or to well-defined groups of users only. It is
possible to comment on comments of other users so the system can be used
as an online discussion forum within an organisation. The sum of all individual
comments and online discussions reflects an organisation's corporate knowledge
about the environmental regulations. In addition to the possibility of
explicitly providing knowledge for the corporate
environment implicit knowledge can also be captured with H.I.R.N. In
H.I.R.N. the concept of profiles is defined as a structured collection
of documents which are pertinent to perform specific tasks. Users have
the freedom of choice to build up as many profiles as they need for their
task. The profiles with the documents assigned to them reflect implicit
knowledge in that the system or other users can deduce from a profile which
documents belong together for specific tasks. Up to date the H.I.R.N. system
is lacking a component which automatically creates explicit computerised
knowledge based on this implicit knowledge. Still, authorised users can
manually transfer this implicit knowledge to explicit knowledge to provide
it to the other users.
Yet another system with knowledge management components is the PADDLE
system (Personal Adaptable Digital Library Environment). PADDLE is a digital
library environment for knowledge workers which contains thousands of environmental
documents (e.g. texts, graphics, tables about the State of the Environment
in Germany) [Tochtermann et al. 1999], [Tochtermann
et al. 2000a]. The approach for building up corporate knowledge with
PADDLE covers three aspects. Firstly, an organisation has to identify the
type of knowledge they want to make available in a corporate environment.
The type of knowledge may include reports, product descriptions, minutes,
project reports, work practices etc. Secondly, an organisation has to categorise
the user groups working with the knowledge base or well-defined parts of
it. In this context the PADDLE philosophy is that different knowledge workers
need different views of the corporate environment and the knowledge stored
therein. Thirdly, for each type of knowledge templates are provided which
support the knowledge workers in preparing the knowledge they want to add
to the corporate environment. A particular focus is placed on a quality
assurance component. Before knowledge is made available widely in PADDLE
it has to undergo a quality assurance process. In the PADDLE system, the
quality assurance process is part of a workflow which serves the purpose
to disseminate, review, edit and release information resources in a pre-defined
chain of users. Quality assurance components are becoming increasingly
important as the level of quality of the knowledge in a corporate environment
directly influences the level of acceptance to use this knowledge base.
In other words: the higher level of quality the higher the user acceptance.
4.2 Knowledge Retrieval in Environmental Informatics
For knowledge retrieval in environmental informatics, often ontologies
are applied. An ontology is an explicit specification of a conceptualisation
[Gruber 1992]; that is an ontology is a shared understanding
of some domain interest, specified in the form of definitions of representational
vocabulary and axioms with constraint interpretations over this vocabulary.
Ontologies are crucial for knowledge retrieval as they can give a unique
semantic to complex objects.
Our literature study revealed that the application of ontologies in
the domain of environmental informatics requires many different ontologies
for the different characteristics which exist for environmental data (e.g.
temporal, geographical, thematic an organisational relationships). Against
this background one should trade
off carefully between the time needed to set up and maintain environmental
ontologies and the gain of time as well as the quality of search results
for the users.
Here are some examples for environmental ontologies: The environmental
information system of the German city of Bremen allows its users to enrich
the existing information with personal annotations [Schröder
et al. 1998]. The annotations are created with an annotation language
which is based on ontologies. This annotation language is specifically
designed to embed and retrieve efficiently knowledge within HTML pages.
The underlying methodology is referred to as the Ontobroker approach [Decker
et al. 1999]. The ontobroker approach provides brokering services to
improve access to heterogeneous, distributed and semi-structured information
sources. It relies on the use of ontologies to make explicit the semantics
of HTML pages. As the ontobroker approach does not depend on a specific
application domain it can be applied as knowledge management component
in almost every type of environmental system. For example, ontologies for
regulations are being developed by [Schröder et
al. 1998]; [Visser et al 1999b] are working on
an ontology for information integration and retrieval of geographical information.
Ontology-based knowledge retrieval for heterogeneous and distributed environmental
information is applied by [Stuckenschmidt et al. 1999].
In this approach the focus is placed on deriving implicit knowledge from
semantic descriptions of concepts.
An interesting approach referred to as Ecolingua links ontologies to
metadata [Uschold et al. 1996]. Ecolingua is an ecological
metadata ontology prototype. It provides vocabulary needed for formal descriptions
of ecological data properties. The ecological metadata ontology is used
to generate prototypical partial ecological models through logic-based
knowledge representation and inference.
Metadata management plays a crucial role in environmental informatics
[Greve et al. 1999]. Prominent examples for an environmental
metadata system are the environmental data catalogue [Nikolai
et al. 1999] and the catalogue of data sources [Pick
et al. 2000] of the European Environment Agency. It is worth mentioning
that either system does also provide data about contact persons who can
help users in specific domains. This is a promising starting point to extend
such systems to meta-knowledge systems (meta-knowledge is knowledge about
knowledge). Rather than providing users with the actual knowledge, meta-knowledge
systems contain information about people who have knowledge or expertise
in a certain domain. Meta-knowledge systems are complementary to knowledge
management systems as they help connect people to one another and, thus,
can be regarded as an enabling technology. In analogy to directories meta-knowledge
spaces are often referred to as "yellow pages".
4.3 Knowledge Transfer in Environmental Informatics
Knowledge transfer deals with the mapping of computerised knowledge
onto human knowledge. Knowledge transfer becomes increasingly important
in the field of environmental management information systems. The reason
is that environmental assessment schemes such as the voluntary European
Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) or ISO 14001 are undergoing rapid
changes, which have to be followed continuously by auditors, environmental
consultants and the environmental
managers of the certified organisations. Even though knowledge-based
training and education tools can significantly help keep pace with these
fast developments only few approaches in this direction exist. The basic
connection between knowledge management and knowledge transfer is pointed
out in [Maurer 1999].
[Dade et al. 1998] introduce a concept to integrate
environmental management information systems with distance education tools.
Their research revealed that all teaching tools can use model data only.
This is due to the fact that the real environmental data varies from one
organisation to the other. The use of model data bears the risk that users
do not recognise the benefit of using the system as it does not reflect
their organisation. Often this results in a decreased motivation of using
such a system. To improve the situation, deeper levels need to be illuminated
to really understand what knowledge modules are. Normally, knowledge modules
are regarded as a pair consisting of knowledge and meta-knowledge only.
In our opinion additionally convention specifications are needed. Convention
specifications define which symbols or data in a knowledge module have
to be exchanged by others to adapt the knowledge to a new context or even
to create new knowledge.
Another possibility to improve the situation is to develop educational
knowledge modules which measure if the degree of knowledge users have in
a certain field is sufficient to cope with situations which typically occur
in this field. To address this issue two aspects have to be taken into
account. Firstly, the system needs to "know" how much and which
knowledge is required to cope with such situations. Secondly, based on
this knowledge the system has to determine whether the knowledge of users
is sufficient compared to the knowledge which they are supposed to have.
For example, for environmental assessment schemes such a system could offer
a meta-course on material flow and life cycle analysis in a company. Instead
of teaching a material flow and life cycle analysis course, the course
helps environmental managers and environmental consultants assess if their
knowledge is sufficient to analyse material flows in a company. If the
knowledge is insufficient the system might confront them with the consequences
that arise due to too little knowledge. Examples for such consequences,
are a dramatic increase of material costs or the failure of the EMAS or
In the field of environmental informatics first contributions have been
published which deal with the design and the layout of environmental and
geo-information. It emerges that interactive animations help users to better
understand the often very complex relationships of environmental processes.
The animations lead to an increase in user activities which in turn facilitates
explorative learning [Buziek 1998]. In addition to
explorative learning strategies also collaborative problem-based learning
strategies are applied in environmental domains [Zumbach
et al. 2000]. The idea of problem-based learning is to solve specific
problems. By doing this the users learn about the problem domain so that
the way how the problem is solved is more important than the actual solution.
Zumbach found out that the possibility to access background libraries during
the course of solving problems further enhances the knowledge transfer.
The access to background systems - which often exist in environmental information
systems [Greve et al. 1999] - ensures the avoidance
of the "tunnel syndrome". The tunnel syndrome is the users' impression
that there is only one direction in which they can go to accomplish a given
5 Geographic Information Systems and Knowledge Management
The advancements of Internet technologies, of interactive multimedia
cartography and of geographical information systems (GIS) have generated
an increasing interest in interactive multimedia mapping tools [Cartwright
et al. 1999], [Gartner 2000]. Such tools offer
opportunities which one could not have even thought of five years ago.
The purpose of this Section is to give an overview of how Internet-based
GIS can be best exploited for knowledge management.
The original idea for GIS was to computerise the metaphor of a thematic
map. This leads to the definition that GIS are computer-based tools to
capture, manipulate, process, and display spatial or georeferenced data
[Günther 1998]. Since environmental information
is always related to a geographic region or a location, e.g. the location
of a lake, GIS is an essential tool for the management and visualisation
of environmental information.
Before we delve into further details we analyse how georeferenced data
is already applied in the field of digital catalogues.
5.1 Georeferenced Data and Digital Catalogues
Research in the area of digital catalogues revealed that well accepted
standards exist (e.g. Dublin Core, [Weibel 1999])
for defining a minimal set of meta-information which can be used to systematically
catalog an information resource [Tochtermann et al. 1997].
Among the set of meta-information there are elements for describing the
title, the author, subject and keywords etc. of an information resource.
There is another element which is neglected in many digital catalog systems:
"coverage". The element coverage can be used to describe the
geographical characteristics of the intellectual content of the resource.
Geographical coverage refers to a physical region using geographical names
or coordinates (e.g., longitude and latitude). Often geographical coverage
is associated only with typical geo-data such as environmental data, remote
sensing data and images from satellites and aircraft, databases of measurements
(e.g. temperature, windspeed, snow depth) from specific geographic locations
etc. However, in reality almost every type of information has a geographical
reference. For instance, regulations can be geo-indexed with the country
or state they are valid in, scientific literature can be geo-indexed with
the place of publication, servers can be geo-indexed with their location
in a network etc. And indeed there already exist first examples of "network
topology maps" created by Internet service providers and Internet
backbone operators [Dodge 2000]. The maps are often
created for promotional purposes to demonstrate the large bandwidth and
good connections available. Additionally, they can also be used for topological
searches for servers and internet operators. The curious reader is invited
to try out the Mapnet tool which visualizes simultaneously the topology
of the infrastructure of multiple U.S. backbone providers [Claffy
et al. 2000].
The wide applicability of georeferenced data resulted in the idea to
enhance search and retrieval in digital catalogs by using not only semantic
and temporal relationships but also geographical relationships [Tochtermann
et al. 1997], [ADL 2000]. Typically, geographical
relationships can restrict the search to resources which
are related to a geographical region. Two ways exist to define the geographical
relationship: 1) Similar to choosing keywords for semantic relationships,
users can choose a geographical name (e.g. "Graz") to define
the geographical relationship; 2) a technique referred to as geographical
access can be applied [Kraak et al. 1997]. Geographical
access means that users specify coordinates by clicking on a point, on
a geo-object, by defining a rectangular or polygonal geometry etc.
While existing user interfaces of digital catalogs have in common that
different components exist to define the different relationships for a
query a new idea is to apply geographical information systems and multimedia
cartography as integrated information portals in knowledge management systems.
In general, a common understanding for an information portal is that it
provides "knowledge workers with a secure, single point of exchange
of relevant information, both structured and unstructured, both inside
and outside of the organization through a standard Web browser interface"
The Sections 5.2 and 5.3 describe the potential
of geographical relationships for the mediation of knowledge resources.
They also illustrate that interactive, graphical information portals to
corporate environments open up new opportunities for intuitive knowledge
5.2 Intelligent Maps for Knowledge Retrieval
As pointed out above geographical search components cannot only support
geographical relationships but can also be combined with other relationships
such as thematic and temporal relationships. In principle there exist two
ways which allow this combination.
Firstly, ideas from conceptual navigation can be applied [Veltman
1997]. Conceptual navigation supports users systematically in narrowing
their scope of interest by forming strategic sequences of why? (purpose),
how? (means), when? (temporal boundaries), where? (geographical boundaries),
what? (subject) and who? (person). This means that users select geo-objects
on the map to define the geographical relationship; the system then returns
all knowledge resources which match this relationship. In a second step
users define textually other relationships to filter the resources of interest.
The drawback of this approach is that the query interface would be a mixture
of an interactive, graphical interface and a textual interface.
Secondly, ideas from the concept of smart maps can be extended. The
concept of smart maps is defined as a concept of visualization of one or
more relationships between information resources and places on a map [Rose
et al. 1999]. For example, the description of a forest can be correlated
to a region on a map representing the physical location of the forest.
This reference is animated (e.g. in form of a popup menu) by a sensitive
area on the map which appears when the users moves a pointing devices over
the map and enters the region. A popup menu can show the users the titles
of all information resources linked to the respective region. Selecting
a title will retrieve the information resource. The implementation of smart
maps requires to link all relevant information related to a named region
on the map of interest. A drawback of the approach described in [Rose
et al. 1999] is that no geographical information
system is used to relate an information resource automatically (e.g.,
based on its geographical relationship) to a region on a map. This means
whenever a new resource is added to the corporate environment an explicit
assignment of the resource to a region on a map is required. Of course,
one can easily imagine that this is not feasible for corporate environments
with a high update frequency. Our idea is to extend the concept of smart
maps in the following way (c.f. figure 2: In a first step the user interactively
selects a geo-object on a map. In a next step a menu pops up providing
a structured subject tree. The subject tree contains all thematic relationships
of knowledge resources which are indexed with the respective geo-reference.
Users select one or more entries in the subject tree to define the thematic
relationship for their query.
Figure 2: Intelligent maps
The same approach can be applied to other relationships. In this alternative
the maps would have a certain degree of intelligence in that each geo-object
"knows" which thematic and other relationships those knowledge
resources have which are indexed with this geo-object. This, however, can
be computed automatically after every update of the corporate environment
and thus would not affect the performance of the query component.
5.3 Making Visible the Otherwise Invisible
Most map-based interfaces do not show if information is available at
all for geographical regions on the map. Queries often lead to empty search
results since it is not visible to the user if knowledge resources exist
for the selected geographical region. Therefore, a great challenge is to
overcome this problem, i.e. to make visible the otherwise invisible. Our
approach to address this issue is as follows:
Different maps with different scales are provided for the selection
of a geographical relationship. This ensures that users can start their
searches with a large scaled map (i.e. a map with a low the level of detail)
which will retrieve more results than small scaled maps. As users become
familiar with the system they can change the scale of maps at their will
to restrict their queries to more precise geographical relationships.
Additionally, the concept of intelligent maps as introduced in Section
5.2 can be enriched with a memory which "knows" the geo-objects
to which knowledge resources exist. Such a memory can be maintained automatically.
Whenever users select a geo-object which is stored in the memory, the system
can automatically - without querying the corporate environment - return
the information if or if not knowledge resources with this geographical
reference are available.
Figure 3: Using footprints to make visible the otherwise invisible
Footprints on maps are yet another a well-known concept in literature
[Larson 1995]. The idea is to provide footprints as
hypermedia links on a map. Footprints enable users to mark the locations
of important documents (c.f. figure 3). Clicking on a footprint with a
pointing device (e.g. mouse) brings up knowledge resources
referenced by the link. The problem with this approach is that if all
footprints are shown simultaneously the map may disappear entirely. Therefore,
we capitalise on the idea of footprints in another sense.
Many information portals allow users to store their queries for later
purposes [Hyperwave 1999]. Similar to this, one
can visualize stored queries as footprints on maps. Whenever users select
a footprint users can either submit the query or adapt it to their current
needs (c.f. figure 3). To avoid the problem that maps get again overloaded
by too many footprints from a variety of users we allow users to design
their personal maps with their personal footprint. This is an important
contribution to a new emerging research area: personalization and customization
in internet-based information systems [Tochtermann et
al. 1999]. For more information about the integration of customizable
geographical information portals in knowledge management environments,
the interested reader is advised to consult [Schwartz
et al. 2000]. The architectural design for geographical portals is
described in [Tochtermann et al. 2000b].
A further starting point for applying GIS and multimedia cartography
for knowledge and information management is the area of information space
maps [Dodge 2000]. Information space maps are two
or three dimensional maps which can be seen as analogous to conventional
landuse maps. Sophisticated indexing and classification methods are employed
to produce these maps. The aim of these maps is to provide a sense of the
"lie of the land" of an corporate environment to support searching
The concept of "NewsMap" is another promising approach for
exploiting techniques of environmental informatics for knowledge management
in general and knowledge retrieval in particular (c.f. figure 4) [NewsMap
2000]. NewsMaps look like topographical maps of mountains and valleys.
The concept of the layout is simple: documents with similar content are
placed closer together, and peaks appear where there is a concentration
of closely related documents. The valleys between peaks can be interesting
because they contain fewer documents and more unique content. Topic labels
(e.g., software, computer, mobil) reflect the major two or three topics
represented in a given area of the map, providing a quick indication of
what the documents are about.
Future activities in this field will certainly exploit the benefits
of the Vector Markup Language (VML) [VML 2000]. VML
is an XML-based exchange, editing, and delivery format for high-quality
vector graphics on the Web. Rather than referencing graphics as external
files, VML graphics are delivered inline with the HTML or XML page, allowing
them to interact and scale with user interaction. If applied for maps some
the above described geo-functionality could be used in knowledge management
systems without being forced to use a GIS to interact with the maps. Impressive
applications of VML for interactive maps on the Internet can be found at
Figure 4: NewsMaps
6 Further Synergy Fields for Knowledge Management
and Environmental Informatics
This Section introduces further starting points for the integration
of knowledge management and environmental informatics. A particular emphasis
is placed on those aspects introduced in Section 2
which have not yet been addressed in detail.
To our knowledge, currently, no system exists in the field of environmental
informatics which provides functionality to derive new knowledge from already
existing knowledge. Metadata which play a crucial role in environmental
informatics can be used as a starting point for research in this direction.
For example, the thematic relationship of environmental data is normally
defined with support of an environmental thesaurus [Batschi
1994]. The explicit structures within a thesaurus (e.g. synonyms, broader,
narrower, and related terms) can be used to identify relationships between
different documents. These relationships can be made explicit by automatically
defining hypermedia links between the corresponding documents. Similarly,
temporal relationships can be used to define explicit predecessor-successor
relationships between documents.
While this paper mainly concentrates on product-oriented knowledge management,
i.e. the creation, maintenance, reuse, and use of knowledge in a form which
can be handled by information technologies, process-oriented knowledge
management has a slightly different focus. According to [Studer
et al. 1999] process-oriented knowledge management aims at enabling
people to apply their knowledge and skills in an optimal way to perform
jointly a process. Many organisations are currently re-organising their
internal structure. While often functional structures exist, one can observe
a shift towards process-oriented structures in organisations. Process-oriented
structures divide all activities and all tasks of an organisation into
processes which are arranged according a logic order, a temporal order
etc. Process-oriented structures in organisations are a pre-condition for
the introduction of modern integrated environmental management systems,
that is systems which do not only cover environmental aspects but also
quality assurance and operational safety within an organisation [Kürzl
1998], [Seder et al. 1998]. The integration of
all these aspects necessitates that people with different knowledge, expertise
and skills become involved in the different processes within an organisation.
These processes can only be handled and performed effectively if all experts
involved share their knowledge with other people who are affected by this
It is evident that process-oriented knowledge management components
can enhance the added value of integrated environmental management systems.
Two reasons are supporting this assessment: Firstly, integrated environmental
management systems are a very natural application domain for process-oriented
knowledge management. Secondly, process-oriented knowledge management components
empower people to collaborate with one another, to share their expertise
and thus help integrate the different aspects related to environmental
issues, quality assurance and operational safety.
According to Buziek [Buziek 1998] there is an increasing
need to design and present environmental information more attractive than
it used to be in the past. Today's multimedia authoring tools support the
creation of multimedia documents at a very concrete level only [Lennon
et al. 1994]. Why more abstraction is necessary goes back to the "missing
organ theory" first explained in [Maurer et al.1994].
Therefore, only very limited possibilities exist to reuse a document in
many different contexts. In addition, the mental model of the author normally
does not match well with the mental model of the viewer. To explain this,
we take an analogy from books and movies. Often people are so enthusiastic
about a book they have read that they also want to watch a movie about
the story of the book. Sometimes, however, people do not like the movie
and are disappointed about it. The reason for this phenomenon is that the
book and the movie are at different levels of abstraction. While the movie
is very concrete (e.g., the main character is middle-aged, small and overweighed)
the book is at a higher level and thus allows the readers to have their
own imaginations about how the main character may look like (e.g. the main
character is young, tall, sportsmanlike etc.). Similar to this, new document
types for multimedia documents should allow to compose scenes in a movie
using abstract symbols instead of concrete objects [Lennon
et al. 1994]. These abstract symbols can then be instantiated to produce
concrete scenes with concrete objects. For example, abstract symbols could
be defined for environmental objects such as forest or water and illness
or damage. An instantiation of the composition of these abstract symbols
could either represent water pollution or waldsterben. Further ideas about
abstract multimedia objects can be found in [Lennon et
This paper presented existing and emerging synergy fields for knowledge
management and environmental informatics. Knowledge management can benefit
from the many profound experiences which were made over the last fifteen
years in environmental informatics. The management of huge amount of disparate
information, metadata management, multimedia cartography and GIS are
among the most relevant fields which research in knowledge management can
capitalise on. While many starting points for the integration of corporate
environments and knowledge retrieval in environmental information systems
exist, only very little research was conducted in the field of knowledge
transfer. According to Hasebrook [Hasebrook et al. 1999]
the budget for training courses steadily decreases while at the same time
the percentage of participants in training courses increases. Taking this
development into account, it is evident that knowledge transfer will become
increasingly important for companies. In areas such as EMAS and ISO 14001
which are developing at an extreme rapid pace, knowledge transfer will
be the only possibility for companies to keep their environmental managers
up to date.
Companies and environmental agencies will benefit from the huge potential
of knowledge management if they pursue the suggestions of how to integrate
knowledge management aspects in their environmental information systems.
A further winner, and may be the most important, will be our environment
as knowledge management can help to further improve the effectiveness of
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