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Information managers focus on data availability and use

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Fall 2012

Margaret O’Brien (SBC), John Chamblee (CWT)

2012 All Scientists Meeting

The Information Management Committee (IMC) meeting on September 9 at Estes Park was attended by about 40 site representatives and guests, and as usual, was the event at which we assessed our progress and prepare for the coming year. Activities focused on sites' data contributions to the network catalog, particularly the PASTA-related tools for gauging the structural quality of data and metadata, and key features of EML metadata. During the larger ASM, information managers organized several IM-related working groups and were deeply involved with other synthesis groups. Informatics-related posters were contributed from virtually every site and encompassed all aspects of data management. See the Network News for more information about the ASM, including IMC activities.


New Working Group

To begin network-wide implementation of new PASTA-related tools to gauge dataset structural quality, the IMC formed a new working group tasked with designing reports for various stakeholders, e.g., sites, scientists, the Executive Board (EB), and NSF. The new working group has already met to outline the scope of reports, their timing and frequency, and relationship to the PASTA development timetable. The group is also considering ways to assess the current corpus of datasets as a baseline.


Planned Workshops for 2013

As 2012 closes, the IMC is also planning workshops related to many aspects of the Network Information System (NIS) for the upcoming year. NIS production workshops planned for 2013 include:

  • Enhancement of the LTER Controlled Vocabulary to Support Data Synthesis

    The first version of the LTER Controlled Vocabulary was established in 2011, and term-searches in the Network data catalog take advantage of its synonym definitions. Several enhancements are already planned, particularly to include terms to more fully describe LTER data, and additional definitions and relationships for all terms. The group also will identify linkages to potential gazetteers (for place names) and to taxonomic authorities, and will plan software needs and implementation. They will also consider quantitative evaluation of term-use in datasets (e.g., EML “keywords”), and complete work on the draft Best Practices for LTER Keyword use in datasets.

  • GeoNIS Implementation with PASTA

    During 2013, the GeoNIS group plans a workshop to coordinate LTER Network Office (LNO) PASTA development and GeoNIS server administration, including guidance for a GeoNIS programmer and specifications for user applications and delivery of spatial data through the Network data catalog. Additionally, a group of site representatives will define workflows for ingestion of PASTA-contributed data into the GIS server, including conversion of base data to standardized layers, and creation of web mapping services.

  • Leveraging PASTA and EML-based Workflow Tools for LTER Data Synthesis

    Several 2013 cross-site synthesis projects are planned that will require data generated from EML-described data (e.g., ClimDB, Veg-DB, and Cross-Site Coastal Water Quality). Information managers plan a NIS workshop to leverage the PASTA framework and build reusable EML-based workflow software for these derived data products. This work will also provide crucial feedback to data providers and NIS developers, including practical real-world experience to inform recommendations for EML metadata content, congruence, and site data package management. This group also anticipates follow-up activities with scientists, students, and Network committees (IMC, NISAC and the Executive Board).

  • Managing sensor networks and data: Best practices for LTER

    Sensors are increasingly used in LTER research and LTER information managers often handle large data streams in near real time. In 2013, this group will develop a Best Practices guide for managing sensor data and networks. They will examine various strategies and applications in use both within the LTER Network, and from the broader environmental sensor community. Their recommendations will include tracking of sensor life cycle events and QA/QC procedures.


Site Collarborations

Sites have continued their collaborations, and made many improvements to their local systems. In 2012, these collaborations accelerated at a nearly unprecedented rate, thanks to the injection of supplement money from NSF. In 2013, the availability of additional ARRA funds will support targeted activities focused specifically to enhance data availability:

  1. broad-scale use of the Matlab tools for data processing and description from GCE
  2. completion of the Drupal Environmental Information Management System
  3. further support for inter-site consultation on EML construction and interpretation of PASTA quality checks


A Busy Year Ahead

These activities, along with scientific synthesis working groups which will include IMC members, will mean a busy upcoming year. We all look forward to sharing advances and successes at our next meeting, to be held at one of our field stations in late summer 2013.