Metadata tables to enable dynamic data modeling and web interface design: the SEER example

Int J Med Inform. 2002 Apr;65(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/s1386-5056(02)00002-3.


A wealth of information addressing health status, outcomes and resource utilization is compiled and made available by various government agencies. While exploration of the data is possible using existing tools, in general, would-be users of the resources must acquire CD-ROMs or download data from the web, and upload the data into their own database. Where web interfaces exist, they are highly structured, limiting the kinds of queries that can be executed. This work develops a web-based database interface engine whose content and structure is generated through interaction with a metadata table. The result is a dynamically generated web interface that can easily accommodate changes in the underlying data model by altering the metadata table, rather than requiring changes to the interface code. This paper discusses the background and implementation of the metadata table and web-based front end and provides examples of its use with the NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End-Results (SEER) database.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet*
  • SEER Program*
  • United States
  • User-Computer Interface*