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Big Data and the Future of Ecology

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Spring 2013

Hope Humphries (NWT)

Hampton, S.E., C.A. Strasser, J.J. Tewksbury, W.K. Gram, A.E. Budden, A.L. Batcheller, C.S. Duke, and J.H. Porter. 2013. Big data and the future of ecology. Front Ecol Environ, 11(3):156-162, doi:10.1890/120103.

In an age of "big science" and "big data" (massive volumes of data not easily handled by the usual tools and practices), ecologists are encouraged in this article to be more proactive in contributing data, at all spatial and temporal scales, to publicly available data repositories. The case is made that the lack of a culture of data curation and sharing in ecology, in contrast to other scientific disciplines such as genetics, has resulted in a large pool of unavailable "dark data". The arguments for making such data publicly discoverable will be familiar to LTER information managers.

The authors provide a set of action items that individual ecologists could implement to increase their contribution to addressing large-scale environmental questions:

  • Organize, document, and preserve data for posterity.
  • Share data.
  • Collaborate with networks of colleagues.
  • Address data management issues with students and peers.