Overview

This building blocks project is to research and develop a system whereby geoscience and environmental software are generated effectively by geoscientists themselves, so that the software can be captured, curated, managed, and made available to all parties upon request. This project will begin this process by building partnerships between computer scientists, software developers, and scientists across all geoscience domains with the goal or creating a software ecosystem and a culture of software stewardship that will empower geoscientists and others to make their software accessible and manage it as a valuable scientific asset.

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Although scientists program a lot of code to analyze their data, that important software is often not shared and rarely preserved. The GeoSoft project brings together computer scientists, geoscientists, and social scientists to assist scientists to describe basic characteristics of their code and share it. GeoSoft will be a social site where scientists can discover alternative approaches to release free software, use intelligent interfaces to explain how their software works, and form productive communities around software projects. This research has the potential to fundamentally transform geosciences by making scientific software readily available to researchers and citizen scientists for efficient data analysis.

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The goal of the OntoSoft project is to enable the creation of a germinal ecosystem for software stewardship in geosciences that will empower scientists to manage their software as valuable scientific assets in an open transparent mode that enables broader access to that software by other scientists, software professionals, students, and decision makers. Scientific software stewardship requires a combination of cyberinfrastructure, social infrastructure, and professional development infrastructure. Our cross-disciplinary team has had direct experience with a variety of aspects of the scientific software lifecycle, from conception to development, deployment, characterization, integration, composition, and dissemination through open source communities and geosciences modeling frameworks.

Benefits to Scientists

•Facilitating software publication through a personal assistant that guides a user through best practices. Users choose the degree of investment they are willing to make in componentizing, describing, licensing, and maintaining their software. It will assist in metadata capture for open source publication, the formation of communities around the software, and set up mechanisms for software citation and credit. This guidance is designed around explicitly articulated best practices for open software sharing and reuse.
•Enabling broad software dissemination through a “software commons” for geosciences that supports software contributions (prepared through OntoSoft or otherwise), software discovery through multi-faceted search, and that fosters social interactions through dynamic formation of communities of interest. OntoSoft interoperates with existing software repositories and modeling frameworks in geosciences by importing descriptions of their existing content and in turn advertising to those frameworks new contributions. OntoSoft is based on explicit incentives from social sciences and open source communities.
•Providing just-in-time training materials through an annotated collection of educational units (videos, screen captures, decision trees, reports) ranging from basic education to professional training on all aspects of software stewardship. These materials will run the gamut from simple to complex, e.g., from suggesting the use of the most popular open source license for beginners to walking through a decision tree of nuanced choices for advanced users. These materials will be seamlessly integrated with the OntoSoft user interfaces, and present opportunities for contextualized learning as needed in the context of a user’s context of interaction with the framework.
•The OntoSoft project will result in a germinal social site for the EarthCube, where scientists can discover alternative approaches to release free software, use intelligent interfaces to explain how their software works, and form productive communities around software projects.
•This research has the potential to fundamentally transform geosciences by making scientific software readily available to researchers and citizen scientists for efficient data analysis.
•More broadly, this work will improve our understanding of how to promote software sharing in science, support better software stewardship, and capture metadata for scientific software.

Project Deliverables

The OntoSoft project is developing an on-line community portal for sharing knowledge about geosciences software. In the initial stages of the project, we are developing a portal that will provide:

•Intelligent assistance to describe software: how to use it appropriately, what kinds of data, how it relates to other software, and other important metadata that helps promote reuse
•Sophisticated search capabilities to find software for specific needs
•Interactive advice on software sharing, including open source publication, forming successful developer communities, and other software sharing topics

A detailed description can be found in this paper:
OntoSoft: Capturing Scientific Software Metadata. Gil, Y.; Ratnakar, V.; and Garijo, D. In Proceedings of the Eighth ACM International Conference on Knowledge Capture, Palisades, NY, 2015. http://www.isi.edu/~gil/papers/gil-etal-kcap2015.pdf

Accessing the OntoSoft Portal:

OntoSoft portals are set up for particular communities and institutions. In our current work, we are creating a single entry point so users can easily search across portals.

Here are some portals:

General http://www.ontosoft.org/portal
Paleogeoscience http://c4p.ontosoft.org/
Geoscience models http://csdms.ontosoft.org/
Omics http://omics.ontosoft.org/

Using the OntoSoft portal: http://www.ontosoft.org/geosoft-portal

Team

Principal Investigators:

Christopher J. Duffy, Penn State University

Yolanda Gil, University of Southern California

James Howison, University of Texas at Austin

Chris Mattmann, University of Southern California and NASA/JPL

Scott D. Peckham, University of Colorado

Erin Robinson, Foundation for Earth Science

Links

Previous version of GeoSoft page: http://www.isi.edu/ikcap/geosoft/

YouTube video on GeoSoft by Yolanda Gil:
https://youtu.be/2En0TwV9kEA?list=PL0dptnyHCxLBM4Kop4iK-2CMhYP8iFBIv

More presentations: http://www.ontosoft.org/node/4

OntoSoft: http://www.ontosoft.org/about