The implementation of the INSPIRE Directive in Europe and similar efforts around the globe to develop spatial data infrastructures and global systems of systems have been focusing largely on the adoption of agreed technologies, standards, and specifications to meet the (systems) interoperability challenge. Addressing the key scientific challenges of humanity in the 21st century requires however a much increased inter-disciplinary effort, which in turn makes more complex demands on the type of systems and arrangements needed to support it. This paper analyses the challenges for inter-disciplinary interoperability using the experience of the EuroGEOSS research project. It argues that inter-disciplinarity requires mutual understanding of requirements, methods, theoretical underpinning and tacit knowledge, and this in turn demands for a flexible approach to interoperability based on mediation, brokering and semantics-aware, cross-thematic functionalities. The paper demonstrates the implications of adopting this approach and charts the trajectory for the evolution of current spatial data infrastructures. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
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