Arctic Data Sub-team

Applying modern cyberinfrastructure to improve capabilities for integrating and blending data.

Scope of activities

Logging data

Photo by Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly (PolarTREC 2007), Courtesy of ARCUS

The Arctic Data Sub-team (ADST), first created under Arctic Research Plan 2013-2017, will continue operations under Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021. As a Sub-team of the Environmental Intelligence Collaboration Team,  ADST's scope of activities will include implementation of Research Objectives and Performance Elements related to data under Research Goal 9. Learn more about the Enviromental Intelligence Collaboration Team here

Team leaders

Jonathan Blythe
Environmental Studies Program

Michael Brady
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (Website)

Performance elements from the Arctic research plan

9.4 Enhance discoverability, understanding, and interoperability of Arctic data and tools across Federal data centers.

  • 9.4.1 Advance system models of U.S. observing inventories and data centers to further understanding of these capacities so that informed, optimal, strategic decisions and design, and spending plans can be made.
  • 9.4.2 Promote a nationally and internationally interoperable Arctic data sharing system that will facilitate data discovery, access, usage in many contexts, and long-term preservation, building off the efforts of NSF’s Arctic Data Center, the AOOS Regional Data Assembly Center and the Alaska Data Integration Working Group (ADIWG).
  • 9.4.3 Enhance the timely availability, diversity of content, and inclusion of international contributions to the Arctic data sets and resilience tools within the Arctic Theme for the Climate Data Initiative (CDI) and CRT.
  • 9.4.4 Advance agile situational awareness and decision support for Arctic operators through efforts like ADAC's Arctic Information Fusion Capability28, ERMA, and NASA ACE project.
  • 9.4.5 Update baseline mapping and charting across the Arctic, including additional charting in Arctic waters, updates to baseline topographic mapping and supporting data, and updating high resolution imagery-derived elevation data repeated coverage. Multiagency partners include Alaska Mapping Executive Committee, Alaska Geospatial Council, and Arctic-related LCCs.


Photo by Ute Kaden (TREC 2005), Courtesy of ARCUS

Scientific Achievements

The ADST’s major scientific and research achievement during this fiscal year was establishment of a collaborative network for enhancing data “interoperability” across Federal data centers, among non-federal centers and with the international community. This directly supports IARPC Performance Element 9.4 and related Elements: Enhance discoverability, understanding, and interoperability of Arctic data and tools across Federal data centers.

Interoperability can be defined as properties of data and information systems that allow them to work and share with other information products or systems, present or future, without unintended restrictions. Moving towards interoperable polar information systems that are connected to the global information system is important and urgent considering the rate of environmental and social change being observed in the polar regions. While progress is being made in sharing data stored using different formats and software systems, there are still at least three fundamental challenges. The first is understanding the nature and structure of the data “ecosystem” - understanding the system is a prerequisite to enhancing and designing for interoperability. The second is ensuring that data can be easily discovered, ideally through federated search (searching multiple catalogues through a single interface) and the third is addressing the challenge of interoperating data that use different structures and vocabularies (semantics).

The major achievement of the team in this inaugural year was in establishing the national and international collaboration platform needed to make progress in the three identified priority areas. This was done through a series of meetings and workshops and the establishment of working groups in partnership with the international community. Specific activities are described in the next section.

Collaborations Between Federal Agencies and the Research Community

To move forward on understanding the Arctic data ecosystem, during an ADST monthly meeting, a presentation by team co-lead Peter Pulsifer provided a high-level overview of the "Arctic Data Ecosystem" at a variety of scales including international, national, and local. This included reference to network mapping done by the larger Environmental Intelligence and IARPC Team Leaders at their meeting in Anchorage in March. There are active discussions underway to grow this activity through linkage to an international effort by the Arctic Data Committee and the NSF-Belmont Forum-funded Pan-Arctic Options project. (Performance Element 9.4.1)

On September 28, 2017, ADST hosted a meeting focused on interoperability and international engagement. A large part of the discussion centered around data discovery and federated search. A set of individuals and groups working in this area have been identified and will be working together under ADST and international working group. (Performance Element 9.4.2)

To make progress on the interrelated structural and semantic aspects of interoperability, ADST hosted a series of virtual fora. The first provided an in-depth look at vocabularies and semantics research and development projects in Arctic/Polar data through a number of invited speakers. The second virtual forum focused on Arctic carbon data inventories as a specific use-case for semantic interoperability. Because IARPC Environmental Intelligence has identified a carbon focus, the team is using carbon as a case study for this issue. Using a conference format, invited speakers shared details of current approaches and established unsolved challenges coming out of carbon data-sharing efforts. Lastly, building on the previously described meeting, ADST hosted a roundtable, dialogue-format, remote forum to discuss how the community can create a vocabulary for synthesis and to specifically identify the barriers that data managers and users face when trying to conduct an Arctic Carbon synthesis. Participants included researchers from different areas of the community, including data observers, data managers and data aggregators. (Performance Element 9.4.2)

Stakeholder Engagement

In all cases, the ADST aims to engage all stakeholders in the team’s process. Invitations to the ADST fora (currently our primary collaborative mechanism) are made broadly through the IARPC Collaborations site and other communications channels such as mailing lists (e.g. Cryolist). In many cases, team leads make direct, personal invitations to key stakeholders to encourage participation. Team lead Peter Pulsifer is the Principal Investigator of the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) project, and he has used this network to communicate and encourage engagement. More effort is required here as some of fora may seem irrelevant to some stakeholders. During and IARPC Team Leaders meeting in September 2017, ADST leads started exploring how to better identify decision and policy makers in the dialogue (particularly Federal). ADST will work with the IARPC Executive and secretariat on this effort. Specifically, this would help the team to better understand their data and information sharing and use requirements.

Plans for 2018

In FY2018, the ADST will continue to sponsor monthly remote interagency- wide teleconferences. Tentative topics include: Carbon Data assimilation - lessons learned from Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM); A new generation of Arctic data sensors and data networks; the role of Machine Learning in Arctic data analysis: do we have enough data?

ADST is co-leading an international working group on polar vocabularies and semantics (see Two preliminary meetings have taken place and a third is scheduled for early October. Through this effort, team leaders aim to establish a coordinated approach to vocabulary adoption and semantic mediation methods in support of improved interoperability and data sharing.

ADST will engage in an international working group focused on federated search and led by the Arctic Data Committee and the Standing Committee on Antarctic Data Management. IARPC members will play a leading role in this effort.

In the spring of 2018, representatives from a wide range of different active Arctic and Antarctic data programs and projects will come together to focus on work planning and coordination of effort. The focus of the planned NSF-funded meeting will be to generate detailed plans on how best to mobilize existing and soon-to-be initiated funded activities to develop a particular international data sharing case study. The meeting will be co-led and co-organized by key polar data projects and programs. Organizers include the ADST and more than ten international organizations. One International Indigenous organization was part of the initial conceptualization of the project in June of 2017. More input is needed and is actively being sought from Indigenous organizations.

2017 Performance Element Reporting Log (PE 9.4.1 - 9.4.5)

2017 Arctic Data Collaboration Sub-team Annual Report

2018 Performance Element Reporting Log

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