Supporting annotations on relations


Annotations play a key role in understanding and curating databases. Annotations may represent comments, descriptions, lineage information, among several others. Annotation management is a vital mechanism for sharing knowledge and building an interactive and collaborative environment among database users and scientists. What makes it challenging is that annotations can be attached to database entities at various granularities, e.g., at the table, tuple, column, cell levels, or more generally, to any subset of cells that results from a select statement. Therefore, simple comment fields in tuples would not work because of the combinatorial nature of the annotations. In this paper, we present extensions to current database management systems to support annotations. We propose storage schemes to efficiently store annotations at multiple granularities, i.e., at the table, tuple, column, and cell levels. Compared to storing the annotations with the individual cells, the proposed schemes achieve more than an order-of-magnitude reduction in storage and up to 70% saving in the query execution time. We define types of annotations that inherit different behaviors. Through these types, users can specify, for example, whether or not an annotation is continuously applied over newly inserted data and whether or not an annotation is archived when the base data is modified. These annotation types raise several storage and processing challenges that are addressed in the paper. We propose declarative ways to add, archive, query, and propagate annotations. The proposed mechanisms are realized through extensions to the standard SQL. We implemented the proposed functionalities inside PostgreSQL with an easy to use Excel-based front-end graphical interface.


curating, annotations, tuples, query execution, add archive propagate annotations, postgre SQL

Date of this Version


Authoritative Citation

EDBT '09 Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Extending Database Technology: Advances in Database Technology