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The University of Southampton

First standard for provenance of information on the Web published

Published: 1 May 2013

PROV, a worldwide specification for provenance of information on the Web, has reached a key milestone, with the publication of a standard thanks to the work of an international group led by a University of Southampton professor.

Professor Luc Moreau, from Web and Internet Science in Electronics and Computer Science, is co-chair of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provenance working group that has defined a standard for provenance on the Web.

Provenance is information about entities, activities, and people involved in producing a piece of data, which can be used to form assessments about its quality, reliability or trustworthiness.

The PROV standard will provide the structure of a computer-processable audit trail that is capable of describing the origins of information. This audit trail will help people understand where their information has come from and whether it can be trusted.


W3C is an international community that sees organisations, staff and public working together to develop Web standards. It was founded by the inventor of the World Wide Web and University of Southampton Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and aims to lead the Web to its full potential.

The group has just published 12 documents to support the widespread publication and use of provenance information of Web documents, data, and resources.

As part of the progression to Recommendation they catalogued 66 applications, some of which are interesting academic examples, others very practical. One particular application is NASA's use of PROV to provenance-enable the National Climate Assessment, a four-yearly compilation of findings related to climate change. Using this provenance, users will be able to trace the sources of information used in the assessment and therefore make trust decisions.

Professor Moreau says: “The W3C Provenance working group has worked very hard to develop a standard for provenance on the Web. It is important that a standard for provenance is developed because it will help users determine whether they can trust data and documents on the Web. On the Web, where information is mashed up and republished, where we can trust some sources more than others, provenance will allow users to decide whether information is authentic.”

For more information about the W3C PROV working group Standard in full go to:

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