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Co-chairing the WDS-ECR Network: Looking Back at Three Years of Achievements

Sabrina Delgado Arias at the launch of ICESat-2Blog post by Sabrina Delgado Arias (2019–2020 WDS-ECR Network Representative on the WDS Scientific Committee)

It has been close to a year since both Alice Frémand (UK Polar Data Centre, British Antarctic Survey) and I completed our roles as Co-chairs of the WDS Early Career Researchers and Scientists Network (WDS-ECR Network). Reflecting on our three years in this role, we managed to achieve what we set out to do: lay the groundwork for a diverse and responsive network that creates opportunities for WDS-ECR members to advance their career development and visibility. Together, and with initial help from Ivan Pyshnograiev (Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Ukraine), we accomplished the following key initiatives:

 – Developed the Network Charter, to communicate and facilitate feedback on our mission statement and goals, and guide the implementation of engagement activities.
 – Designed the ECR Network site as part of the WDS website. The website shares upcoming activities, networking events, reports, and training material to keep our membership informed and active.
 – Organized events to expand awareness of the Network, showcase our members work, and encourage new members.
 – Increased visibility of our member’s research and of opportunities for our members via a bi-annual newsletter and through the launch of our Speaker Series webinars.
 – Created training material and courses to strengthen knowledge of Research Data Management (RDM). This included the 2019 RDM Training workshop developed in collaboration with the WDS Scientific Committee (WDS-SC).

I first heard of the then International Council for Science – World Data System in 2017 when a colleague from my employer, Science Systems and Applications, Inc., shared the announcement for a Call to join the nascent ‘WDS Network of Early Career Researchers and Young Scientists’. At the time, the Network had only 14 members, and WDS was not only looking for people to join the Network, but also to push it forward and act as ‘WDS ambassadors’ to lead the initiative. What piqued my interest in this Call was the fact that the work by WDS, ‘to ensure that the critical information used to manage Earth’s resources is available to scientists and policymakers,’ aligned with my own work at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

As Applications Coordinator at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, I work to ensure that satellite data users—beyond the scientific research community—are aware of the freely available data products from NASA’s Earth observing systems. One of my key responsibilities is to facilitate communication between the mission scientists and the data user community to clarify not only the functionality of the data products, but also their utility to effectively inform socially relevant applications. As such, I saw a natural fit in being involved in the WDS, and I was excited to collaborate in leading the efforts to advance the ECR Network.

As is often the case when you volunteer, you get as much or more out of it than what you contribute. Through my role as Co-chair, I got the opportunity to showcase my research, to expand my network, and to leverage the WDS-ECR Network efforts to benefit my work at NASA Goddard. For example, in 2019, I was invited by Alex de Sherbinin, now Chair of the WDS Scientific Committee, and Associate Director of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), to present at the June 2019 SEDAC User Working Group Technical Interchange Meeting. This valuable opportunity enabled me to give the presention, Input to Mission Teams from the Social Science and Applications Communities, and describe my work for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission. Early this year, 2021, I also collaborated with the NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC), which distributes and archives the ICESat-2 data, when participating in the Second Latin America and Caribbean Scientific Data Management Workshop. In this case, I had the chance to highlight our work for ICESat-2 and to include representation from NSIDC DAAC in a panel on Scientific Data Management in Health and the Environment

After a year of many hardships globally due to the pandemic, I am happy to reflect on the wonderful experience of Co-chairing the WDS-ECR Network and on the many connections and friendships built along the way. I am particularly thankful to the WDS International Programme Office and the WDS-SC for their initiative to make sure that the voices of ECRs are heard. I look forward to collaborating with our new Co-chairs in continuing to develop the Network, now as a member of the ECR Network Advisory Board.  Finally, I encourage you to consider getting involved with WDS and ECR Network! There are many key facets of RDM where we all could benefit from learning about your contributions. Mine was ‘Research Translation and Societal Benefits’. What is yours?  

Executive Summary of Report on Earth Observation Data Resources of China (2019)

Lianchong ZhangBlog post by Lianchong Zhang (WDS-ECR Network Representative on the WDS Scientific Committee)

Earth Observations (EOs) are fundamental data resources that have many important applications. The National Earth Observation Data Center (NODA) and the ChinaGEOSS Data Sharing Network have jointly released a biennial Report on Earth Observation Data Resources of China (2019), using survey data up to the beginning of 2019, to comprehensively grasp the dynamic status of China’s EO data resources and promote their application both within China and globally.

The Report collected relevant data through 113 questionnaires submitted by Chinese EO observation organizations, including government departments, institutions that operate satellites, spatial information enterprises, universities, and research institutes, in addition to other groups in the geospatial sector associated with the acquisition, management, services, and applications of EO data in China. The questionnaire surveyed these organizations about the production, distribution, and applications of China’s EO data resources to obtain first-hand information that enabled an analysis of the development of such data resources. The analytic results are presented below.

EO Satellite Platforms
Since 24 April 1970—when China launched its first man-made EO satellite ‘Dong Fang Hong I’—to the end of 2018, greater than 200 orbiting satellites have been launched, including about 60 EO satellites. During this time, a number of EO satellite systems have been built, such as ’Feng Yun’ (which consists of 17 meteorological satellites), ’Hai Yang’ (6 ocean satellites), ’Zi Yuan’ (10 land resource satellites), ’Gao Fen (7 high-resolution EO satellites), ’Huan Jing’ (3 satellites for monitoring the environment and disasters in China), and ’Tian Hui’ (3 high-resolution, three-dimensional mapping satellites), as well as other commercial satellites (8+ satellites). There are also various types of Chinese EO remote sensors; panchromatic, multispectral, hyperspectral, optical, and radar in orbits such as sun-synchronous and geosynchronous. Overall, they form an EO system with diverse spatial, temporal, and spectral resolutions.

EO Organizations
About 67% of EO organizations in China were established between the years 2000 and 2015, about half of them are located in Beijing, and greater than one-third are commercial enterprises. Over half of the organizations have 300+ staff members, and about a quarter of them have annual budgets exceeding10M USD.

EO Data Resources
China has entered the era of Big EO Data, with a total volume approaching 100 PB and comprising greater than 29 PB of data stored online and greater than 68 PB offline. By the end of 2018, three Chinese EO organizations held over 10 PB of archived data, and another eleven held between 1 and 10 PB.

EO Data Infrastructure
The total data storage capacity of facilities within China’s EO organizations is 263 PB, with the storage available for remote disaster recovery exceeding 95 PB. The total capacity of online storage devices exceeds 95 PB, and the capacity of offline devices is over 168 PB. Relevant organizations have also established their online computing capacity of more than 30,000 trillion floating-point calculations per second.

EO Data Services
Over 300,000 online users are registered to Chinese EO organizations. Almost half of the organizations have registered users from overseas; 12% of such organizations provide an annual data service volume that exceeds the PB-level and 55% above a TB-level. Organizations are split almost equally between those offering free and open sharing services to users and those selling data products.

The official Report is in Chinese. An English version of the Executive Summary is available through the following link on the ChinaGEOSS website:


Canada’s Path to a Global Open Research Commons

Karen.jpgBlog post by Karen Payne (WDS-ITO Associate Director)

I would like to bring your attention the following white paper that was recently published by David Castle (WDS-SC member), Mark Leggott (Executive Director, Research Data Canada), and I. This paper is one of a set collected by Canada's New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO) as part of their needs assessment and strategic planning activities. We believe it is also of interest to the WDS community:

  –  Canada’s Path to a Global Open Research Commons

 This article emphasizes three points:

  • The need for Canada to differentiate the national government’s role from that of commercial providers;
  • The need to meet researchers where they are, by taking stock of the tools they already use; and most importantly,
  • The need to support international coordination mechanisms such as the World Data System.

The article concludes that “a principled approach to building scientific infrastructure will best serve Canada and our international partners. No single community or country can address every consideration in the [digital research infrastructure] landscape, making it incumbent upon NDRIO to coordinate with international scientific federations as they marshal their strengths to address global challenges.”

Benchmarking the Global Open Research Commons

Karen.jpgBlog post by Karen Payne (WDS-ITO Associate Director)

Trustworthy Data Repositories (TDRs) are a key pillar within the Global Open Research Commons (GORC), utilized by researchers as they address societal grand challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and poverty. The realized vision of the GORC will provide frictionless access to all research resources, including data, publications, software, and compute resources; plus the metadata, vocabulary, and identification services that enable their discovery and use by humans and machines. Part of the mission of the WDS International Technology Office (WDS-ITO) is to ensure that WDS Members are well represented in the coordination bodies, infrastructures, and functional pipelines that connect TDRs, analytics, and computing resources, globally. As part of this work, the WDS-ITO has taken a leadership role within the Research Data Alliance’s (RDA’s)  GORC Interest Group (IG), and the GORC Working Group (WG) on International Benchmarking

The GORC IG is working on a set of deliverables to support coordination amongst organizations that are building commons, including a roadmap for global alignment to help set priorities for commons development and integration. In support of this roadmap, the GORC Benchmarking WG will develop and collect a set of benchmarks for organizations such that they can internally measure their user engagement and development, and gauge their maturity and compare features across commons. 

In the first case, the WG will collect information about how existing commons measure success, adoption, or use of the services within an organization, such as data downloads, contributed software, and similar Key Performance Indicators and access statistics.  Secondly, we will also curate a set of benchmarks that will enable commons developers to compare features across science clouds. For example, we could consider benchmarks such as evidence or the existence of a well-defined decision making process, a consistent and openly available data privacy policy, and a workflow for adding and maintaining PIDs for managed assets—just to name a few. 

This WG is motivated by the broader goal of openly sharing data and related services across technologies, disciplines, and countries. The deliverables of the WG will inform roadmaps for development of the infrastructure necessary to meet this goal, while forging strong partnerships across the national-, regional-, and domain-focused commons that will be crucial to its success. Observable and measurable benchmarks will help create a tangible path for the development and support of strategic planning across science commons infrastructures and build a common that is globally interoperable. It will also support developers as they seek resources to build the GORC by helping them respond to funding agency requirements for measurable deliverables. WDS Members are a key component of this vision. 

The work will build on previous RDA groups that some WDS Members may have previously or are currently involved with, such as the National Data Services IG, the  Domain Repositories IG, the Data Fabric IG, and the Virtual Research Environment IG. These groups, and many others outside of RDA, will have recommendations that speak to functionality and features of various components of commons; for example, the schema for collecting information on research data repositories for registration, the European Open Science Cloud’s (EOSC’s) FAIR and Sustainability WGs that seek to define the EOSC as a Minimum Viable Product. We will review these and other related outputs to see if they have identified benchmarks that we feel will support our goals. 

The GORC International Benchmarking WG Case Statement is open for public review until Monday, 8 February 2021, and we have submitted a session proposal for RDA’s 17th Plenary Meeting to be held in April. We invite all WDS Members to provide comments or get involved in the RDA GORC IG and WG. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to Karen Payne (ito-director[at]oceannetworks[dot]ca) at the WDS-ITO. We would love to talk to you!

We Must Tear Down the Barriers That Impede Scientific Progress

We would like to bring your attention the following article published on 18 December 2020 in Scientific American that we believe is of interest to the WDS community:

  –  We Must Tear Down the Barriers That Impede Scientific Progress

This article was written by Michael M. Crow and Greg Tananbaum to emphasize how Open Science contributed to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of 'openness' not only for science and the economy but also for society. The article concludes with a paragraph that strongly resonates with the work of the World Data System:

There are hurdles to widespread adoption of open science practices, to be sure. Researchers need proper training on data management plans, reuse licensing and other good open science hygiene. Infrastructure must be developed and nurtured to preserve scientific data, curate it and render it actionable. And organizations must overcome their natural entropy, which makes tackling big, cross-cutting initiatives like open science challenging. While these obstacles are nontrivial, they are small in comparison to the scientific, economic, and societal benefits of open. In a moment of great peril, maintaining the status quo will ultimately prove more costly.

Promoting Proper Data Citation Practices

Robert R. DownsA Blog post by Robert R. Downs (Senior Digital Archivist and Senior Staff Associate Officer of Research, Center for International Earth Science Information Network

The recent EOS opinion article, Data Sets Are Foundational to Research. Why Don’t We Cite Them?, reflects the perspectives of a team of data stewards from five Distributed Active Archive Centers of NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System. In that piece, a salient issue that the authors emphasize is the need to properly cite data, since it is apparent that data citation behavior has not been adopted as a norm, yet, across the Earth Sciences. The authors have observed that data citation has increased during the past decade, but they also have higher expectations for community adoption of data citation practices and, in particular, proper data citation practices. A renewed effort to promote data citation practices is necessary to remind the research community about the need to properly cite data that are used during the preparation of a journal article, report, or other publication.

It is gratifying to see that there has been progress in the adoption of data citation practices. However, when considering the slow adoption of data citation practices, we need to improve communication about the importance of data citation and the benefits that proper data citation offers to all stakeholders. For example, at the risk of oversimplifying such benefits, we might say that, as a result of proper data citation practices:

   –  Article authors can inform readers about the data used in their work.
   –  Article readers can access the data used in studies of interest.
   –  Journal editors can model ethical publication practices.
   –  Data producers can be recognized for sharing their data.
   –  Data repositories and their host institutions can measure their effectiveness.
   –  Promotion committees can assess the research contributions of colleagues.
   –  Sponsors can see how their investments have been leveraged for scientific progress.

 Promoting Proper Data Citation Practices Graphic

Some efforts have reinforced the importance of proper data citation along with techniques for how article authors can cite data. Data repositories display recommended data citations on data landing pages and in metadata and documentation. Journal editors have begun to require authors to cite the data that are used in the preparation of publications. But more must be done to inform colleagues about the importance of data citation so that the adoption of proper data citation practices becomes the norm when publishing research reports. Too often, data are not cited, or are cited without the necessary attribution information to enable the data to be accessed. Furthermore, references to data are not always included in the bibliography section of a publication, or the data reference that is included in the bibliography is incorrect or incomplete.

In many ways, citing data is similar to citing articles. Like articles, the bibliographic reference for data citations should include the following six elements to describe the data that have been used for a publication:

   –  Authors (data producers).
   –  Complete title (including version).
   –  Publication date.
   –  Publisher (data distributor).
   –  Persistent identifier.
   –  Date accessed.

For those seeking recommendations on proper data citation, guidance materials are freely available online. The Data Preservation and Stewardship Committee of the Earth Science Information Partners (WDS Partner Member) recently updated its Data Citation Guidelines for Earth Science Data with detailed explanations and examples. The Quick Guide to Data Citation was produced by the International Association of Social Science Information Services and Technology and focusses on the simplicity of a data citation.

Hopefully, the adoption of proper data citation practices will become more prevalent across the Earth science community, as well as within other research communities, as the research culture continues to evolve. Promoting and serving as exemplars for proper data citation practices could help to encourage others to properly cite data in their publications.