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Andrews LTER Information Management Summary
27 February 2014
Information Management Philosophy and Objectives
The mission of Andrews LTER Information Management is to ensure that all LTER research data will be archived and openly available for the future. The primary goals are to 1) preserve high-quality and well-documented data collections that are both secure and accessible, 2) serve the Andrews and broader community through the development and management of informational products and tools, and 3) provide leadership and participation in relevant committees and activities at both the site and LTER Network level. The following objectives illustrate how aspects of the primary goals are achieved.
- Assure preservation of high quality metadata and data products through the direction and maintenance of a long-term data repository that adheres to LTER standards and best practices and provides security through regular maintenance and backup procedures.
- Maintain and adhere to a Data Access Policy in compliance with LTER standards to assure that data and accompanying metadata are freely and publicly available electronically within two years of collection at both the local site and within the LTER Network Information System (NIS).
- Assure regular contributions of research data into the long-term data repository through strong integration of the IM Team with site science including 1) participation and regular reporting at site executive meetings and monthly meetings, 2) annual reviews of Information Management, and 3) regular interactions and trainings conducted with co-PIs and community members.
- Develop and maintain the Andrews LTER web pages and associated user interfaces that provide access to data and metadata, research publications, programs and projects, site and personnel information, education and outreach programs, community events, and other site information.
- Provide leadership to the LTER Network in the development of standards and best practices for the NIS and participation in community projects and systems that promote the discovery, use, and integration of LTER data, both within the network and throughout the broader research community.
People and Institutions
Information Management is an essential component of the Andrews LTER program and benefits from an institutional partnership between the Oregon State University College of Forestry (COF) and the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW). The current Andrews LTER Information Management Team reflects this long-term partnership:
- Don Henshaw (Team Leader, PNW)
- Suzanne Remillard (Database/Web Developer, LTER/COF)
- Theresa Valentine (GIS Specialist, PNW)
- Adam Kennedy (System Administrator/Wireless Communications, LTER/COF)
- Hans Luh (Programmer, .25 FTE, LTER/COF)
Two other field technicians (1 PNW, 1 LTER/COF) serve IM roles in supporting data loggers and field computers used in routine data collection, describing collection methods, and providing data. A PNW administrative assistant tracks Andrews publications and maintains the LTER bibliography. NSF supplements are used on occasion to contract for specific application development.
Impacts of Information Management Activities
Perhaps the greatest impact is demonstrated through the persistence and growth of the Forest Science Data Bank. The FSDB was established in 1980 and has been largely funded and operated by LTER personnel since the mid-1990s. The FSDB has opportunistically acquired non-LTER data and includes well over 250 databases with more than 170 databases on-line (mostly LTER). A stable computing environment and information system with desirable features such as adherence to national metadata standards have allowed the FSDB to expand its LTER data resource holdings into a regional data center. Holdings now include key US Forest Service Research data (e.g., Research Natural Areas and Experimental Forests), USFS campaign data (e.g., Demonstration of Ecosystem Management Options (DEMO) and Mount St. Helens), National Forest System data (Young Stand Study), OSU CoF data (e.g., OSU MacDonald Forest), and the Long-Term Permanent Vegetation Plot Network (OSU, PNW, UW). NSF-funded grants in ecosystem informatics such as the IGERT and summer institute (EISI) programs have broadened campus-wide perspectives on information management and cyberinfrastructure issues, and Andrews data has been essential in student projects (e.g., quality control of high-volume streaming data, visualization software on species diversity). There have been over six thousand documented downloads of data from FSDB in the past three years.
The IM Team has recently been concentrating on improving our information management system to satisfy LTER Network expectations for placing metadata and data into the Netword data repository, PASTA, and advancing Network Information System (NIS) functionality. To do this and to prepare for our renewal proposal (LTER7), we have prioritized updates and review of all data sets, including reviewing and updating the website for necessary improvements. An on-going project has been the streamlining the processing of major data collections including several climate and vegetation study data sets by standardizing workflows and improving our capability to run quality control checks on streaming data in near real-time
Significant Results from our Efforts to Improve our Information Management System
- Metadata enhancements and improvements to the Ecological Metadata Language (EML)-generation program, which is a generic program to build EML files for all data sets, following best practices guidelines, from our relational metadata database.
- An archival system to manage versioning of data sets and versioning of associated EML files, thus improving our ability to acess previous versions of data sets.
- A quality control workflow for streaming sensor data to assure immediate posting of provisional data.
- An efficient and standardized system of handling all data streaming through the new communication network (includes developing generic database handling programs using file and attribute naming conventions).
- Refining the web-based login process to greatly simplify access to Andrews data.
Outreach and Training
- The Andrews IM team conducts yearly training and outreach to graduate students, IGERT, and Eco-Informatics Summer Institute students. More recently, they conducted "Metadata Parties" with PIs as a means of collecting key research metadata for core data sets, demonstrating metadata requirements and training on the use of our administrative interface. The team meets one-on-one with students and researchers to help them understand the importance of managing their data and contributing to the long-term records of the Andrews LTER. Team members have conducted training and outreach internationally and nationally at conferences and workshops.
- Valentine co-led the development of the LTER GeoNIS, to develop workflow requirements for ingesting PASTA data into geographic NIS.
- Henshaw was lead coordinator and trainer for several training workshop on software tools and strategies for managing sensor networks. Preliminary workshop results for developing best practices for managing sensor networks have been shared online with LTER and the broader environmental sensor community on the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation wiki page (http://wiki.esipfed.org/index.php/EnviroSensing_Cluster). An Environmental Sensor User Group (EnviroSensing Cluster) has been formed within the ESIP commons, provides a forum and allows for wider impact.
- Remillard participated in two Veg-DB workshops that aim to develop a cross-site system to improve access to vegetation synthetic databases.