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LinkedEarth: Crowdsourcing Data Curation & Standards Development in Paleoclimatology

Rationale and Scope

Current climate change must be understood within the context of past climate variations, which are inferred from indirect measurements known as paleoclimate observations. A grand challenge for paleoclimatology is that these observations come in very disparate formats, so there is no standard way to exchange these records between researchers, or with machines. This hinders their re-use and hence lowers their value to science and society. Traditionally, these observations have been archived in data warehouses where the experts that make them have very little control over them. This project aims to change this by creating an online platform that will do two things: (1) enable the curation of a publicly-accessible database by paleoclimate experts and (2)  foster the development of standards, so paleoclimate data are easier to analyze, share, and re-use. The proposed activity, LinkedEarth, will lower barriers to participation in the geosciences, enabling more "dark data" to join the public domain using community-sanctioned protocols. A pilot project will facilitate the work of hundreds of scientists  working to better understand the climate of the past 2,000 years (PAGES2k), accelerating scientific discovery and the dissemination of its results to society.  Facilitating access to geolocated data will open the door to integration with other disciplines (e.g. climate modeling, paleoecology, paleobiology, archeology), and to new educational tools, allowing educators to weave historical narratives around events documented in the paleoclimate record. 

Implementation

More specifically, LinkedEarth is centered around the concept of semantic wikis. Semantic wikis provide a simple, intuitive interface to semantic languages and infrastructure that build on open Web architecture. Like traditional wikis, they enable the collaborative authoring of content. Secure access and time-stamped content also enable the tracking of changes and the accountability of users, as well as moderation capabilities by community members of recognized expertise. In contrast to traditional wikis, semantic wikis allow contributors to assign meaning to their content, specifying relationships between the objects they describe. This enables artificial intelligence reasoners to parse, process and translate these data into more useful forms. The technology is well-proven, scalable, and completely transparent to the user, requiring no computer science knowledge or more sophisticated technology than a web browser. The proposed LinkedEarth Wiki will automatically translate this information into Linked Open Data, a universal format to share data across the Web.  Social technologies will be developed to power collective curation, standards development and quality control by the community itself. The project will demonstrate applicability to other paleogeosciences, serving as a potential template for other geoscientific disciplines.

Initial results can be viewed at http://www.organicdatacuration.org/lipd/index.php/Main_Page. This will evolve rapidly after Jan 2016.