Provenance: A Future History

James Cheney, Stephen Chong, Nate Foster, Margo Seltzer, Stijn Vansummeren


Science, industry, and society are being revolutionized by radical new capabilities for information sharing, distributed computation, and collaboration offered by the World Wide Web. This revolution promises dramatic benefits but also poses serious risks due to the fluid nature of digital infor- mation. One important cross-cutting issue is managing and recording provenance, or metadata about the origin, context, or history of data. We posit that provenance will play a cen- tral role in emerging advanced digital infrastructures. In this paper, we outline the current state of provenance research and practice, identify hard open research problems involving provenance semantics, formal modeling, and security, and articulate a vision for the future of provenance.