Director of Research

Phase 1

The Changing Landscape

The landscape for Ocean Science (and science in general) has been shifting over the last decade from single scientist projects to large scale collaborative science programs. The following bullets summarize some of these changes:

  • Collaboration has become commonplace. Although collaboration has been a integral part of oceanography for decades, today's science challenges are increasingly met by multi-disciplinary teams using Internet tools to support virtual research organizations. Individual scientists benefit from large-scale science collaborations in ways that were not originally envisioned. Science is becoming dependent on the outcomes of the collaborative efforts and the data collected by these teams.
  • The development and deployment of large ocean observatories and their associated terabyte data flows needs attention. Handling data flows with elements of interest to many disciplines, rather than data files of interest to only a single group, will become more important for oceanographic researchers in the future.
  • Increased attention is being paid to data collected by researchers with government funding, and the availability of that data to researchers in other disciplines, school teachers, and the general public. Scientists (and their funding agencies) are committed to making data publicly available, and shared data policies and enforcement are becoming more common. For example, efforts such as Data.gov is focused on making science and other government data accessible to the public.
  • The field of Data Science is maturing quickly and has become recognized as a science area in its own right. Research organizations are looking closely at this area of science and applying its findings where appropriate.

Ocean Informatics Working Group Establishment

Ocean Informatics efforts at WHOI gained momentum in the late 1990's with a report of the WHOI Ad Hoc Scientific Data Advisory Committee (May 1999). Efforts in the decade following this report are detailed here: http://www.whoi.edu/sbl/liteSite.do?litesiteid=7493&articleId=11372.

The WHOI Access to the Sea report recommended that WHOI hire a Cyberinfrastructure Coordinator, in part to address the changing needs for more data-centric and collaborative approaches to ocean science. As an alternative, WHOI created a small working group to carry out many of the responsibilities originally envisioned for the person holding this position.

In January 2009 the Ocean Informatics Working Group ("Phase 1") was created with members: Andrew Maffei, WHOI Senior Information Systems Specialist and working group Lead, Peter Fox, co-Chair of Rensselaer Polytechnic Tetherless World Constellation (and WHOI adjunct faculty member), Jennifer Schopf , WHOI technical staff member on 3-year appointment to the  National Science Foundation Office for Cyberinfrastructure, and Art Gaylord, Director of WHOI’s Computer and Information Services group. This group brought together a wide variety of skills and the strength to plan and implement the data-intensive infrastructure needed for WHOI to address 21st century oceanographic science.

Charge to the Working Group

The charge given to the WHOI Ocean Informatics Working Group closely mirrors the responsibilities that were described in the Access to the Sea report. These include:

  1. Work with existing science initiatives to coordinate on-going data and cyberinformatics activities, and identify possible synergistic opportunities between these groups.
  2. Develop a vision and implementation strategy to strengthen WHOI’s participation in Ocean Science programs, including cyberinformatics components.
  3. Recommend and facilitate the implementation of common infrastructure components to advance improved data query, access to archived data sets, retrieval of remote sensor data, and increasing the ability for a single data set to be used by multiple researchers in different disciplines and sub-disciplines.
  4. Seek out new opportunities to fund the development of a robust cyberinformatics capability at WHOI, with the aim of improving the competitiveness and success of WHOI projects that have cyberinfrastructure-intensive requirements.
  5. Acquire knowledge of emerging cyberinfrastructure and informatics standards and tools, and disseminate this knowledge to the WHOI scientific and technical staff; identify gaps in existing technical skills and develop an internal strategy to fill these gaps.
  6. Develop data and informatics partnerships with local and North East research institutions, state governments, federal agencies, and relevant industry aimed at raising awareness and solving problems faced by the Northeast U.S. related to energy, the environment, climate change and computational infrastructure needs.
  7. Encourage integration of data and informatics technologies into undergraduate and graduate oceanography programs.

 

Phase 1 Report

Initial work (see link for final report)

Towards these goals, the working group has:

  • Taken part in a series of over twenty-five interviews with WHOI research groups to evaluate current and future needs for data-oriented oceanographic science.
  • Increased collaboration between oceanographic and cyberinfrastructure components through targeted efforts with BCO-DMO, HabCAM, NDSF, and the SW06 efforts, among other WHOI research projects.
  • Submitted a series of proposals to several funding agencies to support ongoing and extended data and semantics technology-driven ocean science.
  • Increased the possibility of ocean science and informatics collaboration through production of a draft Memorandum of Understanding between WHOI and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.
  • Worked with MBL and the Woods Hole Research Center to push the needs of data-driven science throughout the Woods Hole area.

WHOI-RPI Collaboration

Complimentary to the Ocean Informatics Working Group, WHOI and RPI are building a strong collaboration, focusing on the following areas:

  1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):  An MOU that would cover the areas of adjunct faculty positions, shared resources, and open data policy to enable mutually beneficial collaborations between researchers in both organizations around the topics of scientific data handling and other programs that benefit both.
  2. Education Programs: Graduate level and staff education program opportunities (to include but not necessarily limited to Ocean Informatics).
  3. Funding:  Joint proposal opportunities to federal and non‐federal agencies are being identified and pursued.
  4. Policy Decision Framework ‐ WHOI and RPI are discussing an initiative to develop a partnership of New England research institutions, state governments, and relevant companies and industries aimed at raising awareness and solving problems faced by the Northeast U.S. related to energy, the environment, and computational infrastructure needs. Expected outcomes are the development of large scale, academic‐corporate‐government partnership-based programs to approach issues.

Last updated: April 7, 2010