The workshop on Data Initiatives in Africa – Opportunities and Challenges for Research and Sustainable Development convened by WDS took place last week in Grenoble with the participation of 30 experts (10 African countries represented). The meeting explored opportunities and challenges facing several data initiatives in Africa covering a broad range of disciplines and institutions. During the ...
We are pleased to announce that online Registration and Abstract Submission is now open for the World Data System Asia–Oceania Conference 2017 (27–29 September; Kyoto, Japan). Deadlines are 31 August and 15 July, respectively, and one may also apply for travel support (deadline: 31 May). This Conference will bring together data practitioners, data repository managers, and researchers to ...
The Hague, Netherlands and Tokyo, Japan – March 2017 The ICSU World Data System (WDS) and the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) Board are pleased to announce the further alignment of their procedures and organizations. A single WDS–DSA Standards and Certification Board has now been established. This ad hoc Board will take responsibility for the development and maintenance of the ...
Stanley (Stan) Ruttenberg, past Chairman and Treasurer of the ICSU Panel on World Data Centers (WDCs)—the predecessor body of ICSU-WDS—recently passed away. He was a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of California at Los Angeles. Before chairing the WDC Panel, Stan was an instrumental participant and leader in many important global scientific projects over 50 ...
Essential Climate Variables – Global Glacier Change Data Indicate Continued Strong Ice Losses in 2015 and 2016
A Blog post by Isabelle Gärtner-Roer (WDS Scientific Committee member)
Changes in glaciers provide some of the clearest evidence of climate change, and as such they constitute key indicators and unique demonstration objects of ongoing climate change. Beside this scientific aspect, glacier changes have an impact on local hazard situations, regional water cycles, and global sea level.
The Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers (GTN-G) is the framework for the internationally coordinated monitoring of glaciers in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Within GTN-G, the World Glacier Monitoring Service affiliated at the University of Zurich, Switzerland (WGMS, WDS Regular Member)—which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year—is responsible for the collection and documentation of glacier fluctuations such as annual mass balances and length changes.
Figure 1: Mean annual mass balance of reference glaciers.
Latest mass balance data of the hydrological period 2014/15 and preliminary estimates for 2015/16 indicate continued strong ice losses. In fact, after 2002/03, 2014/15 is the second most negative year since the beginning of the monitoring program at WGMS (as shown in Fig. 1 for glaciers with long, continuous measurement programmes; the so-called 'reference glaciers'). This value is negative despite most of the glaciers in Norway and Iceland, as well as the few that are monitored in New Zealand and Antarctica, showing positive balances in the corresponding year (see Table 3 on this page). Since 1999/00, WGMS has already documented four years with a global mean ice thickness loss of more than 1000 millimetre water equivalent (mm w.e.). These new data show a continuation in the global trend of strong ice losses over the past few decades, and bring the cumulative average thickness loss since 1980 of the reference glaciers to almost 20.000 mm w.e.
As a Regular Member of the ICSU World Data System, WGMS publishes glacier data in a standardized format and makes them freely available to scientists, policy makers, and the wider public. Access is provided online through the 'Fluctuations of Glaciers Browser' and the 'Glacier App', as well as being consolidated in the 'Global Glacier Change Bulletin'.
Figure 2. Training course on glacier mass balance in La Paz, Bolivia (Photo: M. Zemp)
Upcoming challenges in glacier monitoring are very much related to the disintegration and vanishing of glaciers. Some of the glaciers under monitoring programmes disintegrate into several parts, while others—such as the Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya—completely disappear. These issues demand continuous adaptation of monitoring strategies on both a local and global level. This is one reason why WGMS organizes training courses for Principal Investigators who perform glacier measurements and deliver their glacier data to WGMS. The last training course was held in 2016, with participants from Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina) joining who are involved in ongoing mass balance programmes in their region (see Fig. 2). These participants were trained in both fieldwork and data analysis by an international team of experts in glacier monitoring and capacity building.
Our work relies on the cooperation and help of many scientists and observers throughout the world. We highly appreciate their long-lasting contributions in collaboration with our National Correspondents coordinating the collection of data in their country for submission to WGMS.
WorldWideScience Alliance: An International Partnership to Improve Access to Scientific and Technical Information and Research Data
A Blog post by Lorrie Apple Johnson (WorldWideScience Alliance Operating Agent)
The WorldWideScience Alliance is a strategic partnership between national and international libraries and data and information centres from around the world. The ICSU World Data System and the WorldWideScience Alliance share reciprocal Associate Memberships, and both organizations are committed to eliminating barriers associated with finding and sharing scientific and technical information, including scientific research data. The Alliance provides the governance structure for the global science gateway, WorldWideScience.org (WWS.org), which facilitates federated searching across over 100 scientific and technical databases from more than 70 countries. The WDS Data Portal is among the data collections searched by WWS.org, along with 14 other resources focussed on data, and the Alliance is actively seeking new data resources and partners.
The federated search technology employed by WWS.org offers users a number of distinct advantages, including the ability to perform a real-time, simultaneous search of multiple databases, some of which may not be indexed by typical search engines. Users receive a consolidated, relevance-ranked results list incorporating information in textual, multimedia, and scientific data formats. Multilingual translations capabilities are automatically performed in ten languages, which makes scholarly material, including scientific data, more accessible to a worldwide audience.
The ability to search data collections within WWS.org also addresses many of the challenges associated with discoverability of research data. For example, unless a user is familiar with a particular data centre, or knows that a specific dataset exists, it can be difficult to identify and locate scientific data; especially those outside of the researcher’s own discipline or speciality. WWS.org enables users to receive data results in a separate results tab, and upon selecting a specific result, users will be directed to the landing page at the originating source, which in turn makes the data accessible for viewing or downloading. The inclusion of data collections in WWS.org, particularly as part of the broader public access movement among government research funders in many countries, further expands access to Research and Development results during the full research lifecycle, and ultimately contributes to increased scientific collaboration and progress.
The WorldWideScience Alliance is eager to include new resources in WWS.org, and feedback is always welcome.
For more information about WWS.org and the Alliance, please visit http://worldwidescience.org/.
2016 SciDataCon-China: The Third China Scientific Data Conference
A Blog post by Guoqing Li (WDS Scientific Committee member)
On 25–26 August of 2016—two weeks before SciDataCon 2016 took place in Denver, USA—the Third China Scientific Data Conference was held in Shanghai, China. As can be understood from its abbreviation of SciDataCon-China, this Chinese-speaking conference is the national-level platform for communication about scientific data; just as SciDataCon, hosted by ICSU’s World Data System (ICSU-WDS) and Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), is at the international level.
2016 SciDataCon-China was co-hosted by Fudan University, which houses the first Data Science Laboratory to be set up in China. Greater than 380 experts, scholars, and students from universities, institutes, companies, and governmental agencies gathered in the Zhangjiang Campus of Fudan University to attend in excess of 20 breakout sessions over the two days. Although the number of participants was slightly fewer than the 400 who attended the Second SciDataCon-China in 2015, oral reports significantly increased to more than 160 from around 100 last time, making it the leading scientific data conference in China.
Different from the Information Sciences approach, SciDataCon-China has kept a domain-oriented emphasis as a primary principle from its beginnings. Breakout sessions mostly served the multidisciplinary community, covering such diverse fields as Materials Science, Astronomy, Space Science, Geography, Ecology, Earth Observation Science, Marine Science, Smart Cities, Precision Medicine, and Agriculture, as well as the management, analysis, and visualization of scientific Big Data.
SciDataCon-China is not only a communication platform for domain scientists and information scientists, but also a dialogue platform for scientific communities and decision-makers. Consecutive sessions on data policy, funding policy, and large-grant programme management were jointly held by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. An important conclusion of the conference was that the opening and sharing of scientific data should be supported mainly through national finances; in particular, because scientific data can help to accelerate the construction of national innovation capacity.
A session by WDS-China has been a regular and popular feature of each SciDataCon-China since its conception. On this occasion, greater than 40 experts from 7 Chinese WDS Members were at the WDS-China session alongside numerous attendees from local data centres. Discussions and reports focussed on the topics of the maintenance and future development of Chinese WDS Member Organizations, the sustainability of national scientific data centres, creating a uniform metadata service within WDS-China, the long-term preservation of published data, and so on.
Under the oversight of the WDS Scientific Committee, and supported by the WDS International Programme Office, WDS-China and WDS-Japan are now working together to realize the inaugural WDS Asia-Pacific Symposium: a regional communication platform for scientific data. Thus, there will be a seamless transition of WDS communications from the national, through the regional, to the international level.
SciDataCon-China is an annual event organized by the China National Committee of CODATA in cooperation with the WDS-China Coordinating Office and other partners. The First conference was held in January 2014 in Beijing, and the Second in August 2015 in Lanzhou. The next SciDataCon-China will take place during August 2017 in Kunming; co-hosted by the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A New Challenge: Building Multidisciplinary Distributed Research Data Infrastructures – EPOS - European Plate Observing System
A Blog post by Aude Chambodut (WDS Scientific Committee member)
Researchers who specialize in a particular Earth Science discipline (seismology, geomagnetism, gravimetry, geochemistry, geology, etc.) cannot fully describe the history and crustal structure of a region of the globe using ONLY their specific research field. They often need to consult a large number of references and databases from other research domains. Interdisciplinary studies are still hampered by the necessity for researchers to document themselves effectively with many ‘external/foreign’ contributions, and to have colleagues in these fields who are willing to collaborate.
Of course, many efforts have been made to group datasets, mainly by discipline, and make them available to the greatest number in a trusted database. However, interdisciplinary approaches still remain a matter of exception. Good ideas are sometimes dismissed simply because of life: difficulty in easily finding a reliable data source understandable to a non-specialist, trouble in speaking the same language as the scientific colleague of the other discipline, lack of time,…
The greatest advances in Earth sciences were made using transdisciplinary collaborations. We say often that ‘the data noise of one proves to be useful information to another’ and vice versa. This is true even within the same discipline; indeed in geomagnetism: for one magnetic field measurement, the inner part interests the main-field modeller, while its ‘noise’ contains the ionospheric field studied by an ionospheric physicist.
Over the last decades, considerable advances in information technology have made an integrated approach possible, easing access to the tremendous amount of data and products available across the Earth Sciences and related fields. Large multidisciplinary projects are initiated to facilitate integrated use of data, data products, and tools from distributed research infrastructures for Solid-Earth science in Europe.
In this matter, EPOS—the European Plate Observing System1—is currently one of the most exciting under-development, long-term integration project in Europe. EPOS strategy is not to erase all that was previously done, but to integrate existing national or transnational structures (e.g., seismic and magnetic permanent monitoring networks, and analytical laboratories) and to develop a new interoperabillity layer that will be seen as a common interface.
Long-standing existing structures (National, European, or International services and data centres), together with newly developed databases (for less centralized/organized disciplines), will be virtually gathered into a central hub of which the key functions will be: an Application Programming Interface, a metadata catalogue, a system manager, and services that will enable data discovery, interactions with users, as well as access, download and integrate data2.
Data will be made available from the Solid-Earth Science disciplines that each community deals with, such as seismology, geomagnetism, geodesy, volcanology, geology and surface dynamics, analytical and experimental laboratory research, rock physics and petrology, and satellite information. Available data will be quality controlled according to the appropriate standards as defined by each of the disciplinary data providers.
For pre-existing entities, their visibility will be enhanced. For new structures, their creation will help the community to consolidate scattered data that are hidden and distribute them in a uniform database. For researchers in the Solid-Earth Sciences, EPOS will facilitate innovative cross-disciplinary approaches for a better understanding of the physical processes and the driving forces involved (a seismologist will get access to trusted magnetic anomaly maps; a gravimetrician will be able to use reliable strain rate maps from the Global Navigation Satellite System community to compare with their own results). From a societal point of view, EPOS will enable scientists to better inform governments and society on natural hazards, such as earthquakes, volcanic events, tsunamis, and major land movements.
EPOS is in its implementation phase. By 2018, EPOS is expected to be a legal entity: the EPOS ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium).