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2016 Award Winner

The 2016 WDS Data Stewardship Award was won by

Dr Boris Biskaborn
(Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research)

Dr Biskaborn was unable to attend SciDataCon 2016, but sent a short video message whilst conducting field research for the assembled audience to enjoy.



Dr Boris Biskaborn is an accomplished geoscientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, with expertise and involvement in many different scientific endeavours pertaining to the polar regions and data science. He leads the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), which has been completely reshaped through both his conception of a new data management system and his creation and mobilization of a network of national correspondents worldwide. For the latter, Dr Biskaborn initiated incentives and tutorials to contribute datasets in an easy way and has relentlessly convinced the main data contributors to overcome concerns about providing data in a rapid and open manner. These developments have been instrumental to the success of GTN-P, surpassing the original goals of the network’s Strategy and Implementation Plan. In close collaboration with the Arctic Portal in Akureyri, Iceland—and under the umbrella of the International Permafrost Association (IPA), Global Climate Observing System, and World Meteorological Organization—he brought permafrost as an Essential Climate Variable to the next level.

The structure and dissemination strategy of GTN-P’s data management system is based on the requirements of stakeholders identified early on in the process. It has made the system relevant to not only the permafrost community but also a large range of stakeholders. The database is fully ISO-compliant, incorporating the latest standards in terms of geoinformation, and is streamlined to facilitate single investigators in remote regions to submit data in simple formats and convert them automatically. Database entries are exportable in many formats, including as NetCDF files, which are crucial for modellers wanting to use the datasets to validate global climate models, and has enabled GTN-P to deliver outputs for the first time in a standardized and model-ready format at the global level.

Dr Biskaborn is also highly involved in a number of other initiatives. He has brought together stakeholders to help coordinate metadata efforts at many workshops and also through the IPA’s Action Group on Data Quality. He was the data manager of the European Union project PAGE21, the Data Output Catalogue of which, he built using inputs from the modelling community and knowledge gained in networks such as the European Space Agency – Data User Element Permafrost project, the World Climate Research Programme’s Climate and Cryosphere project, or the PANGAEA [WDS Regular Member] database. Moreover, as a result of the procedures Dr Biskaborn has implemented at GTN-P, he has recently started working as a data scientist for the PalMod project, dealing with data quality assessment and synthesis of pan-Arctic paleotemperature proxy data, and allowing him to share his experience and exchange strategies with the Observations for Model Intercomparisons Project. He is also currently working on an update of permafrost temperatures for the entire world that should form a major milestone for permafrost science, and be the culmination result of his efforts to coordinate permafrost research internationally.

Finally, Dr Biskaborn is actively engaging the next generation of researchers by conducting workshops and breakout sessions on data science at international conferences (e.g., at the 4th European Conference on Permafrost and 11th International Conference on Permafrost) in close collaboration with the Permafrost Young Researchers Network and the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists. He furthermore initiated the concept of having ‘young national correspondents’ of GTN-P, an extremely successful scheme whereby a young researcher has been added to the national representation of each country within the network.

Dr Biskaborn regularly conducts expeditions to remote arctic areas, which helps him to 'get back to basics', alongside data science.