Stewardship of Legacy Field Campaign Data at NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory

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Thursday, 8 January 2015: 12:05 PM
130 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Steven F. Williams, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and R. A. Rilling and J. A. Aquino

The NCAR Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL), and its various predecessor NCAR groups, has conducted or participated in more than 400 field experiments over approximately the past 45 years. Those field experiments have produced a wealth of unique data, which in turn has led to numerous discoveries and publications on atmospheric and related sciences phenomena. Data, metadata, and publications are all legacies of any field project. However, after an initial burst of research and publications from a particular field project, interest historically wanes, and the information and data that were collected tended to be relegated to a less accessible archive. Over the past 5 years, there has been a renewed interest (increased requests and inquiries) in EOL's field project archive data, mainly pertaining to climate related studies and data “reuse”. EOL recognizes that these data continue to represent a real asset to the scientific community, as recent investigators sometimes wish to refer to an earlier experiment when they return to the same part of the world (e.g., the 2007 Pacific Atmospheric Sulfur Experiment [PASE] investigators reviewing the 1967 Line Island Experiment [LIE] data), or they wish to extrapolate data from one part of the world to another (Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation [DYNAMO] experimenters reviewing TOGA Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Response Experiment [TOGA-COARE] data). Older data sets may also prove important when looking for long term changes in aerosol concentrations or cloud populations.

EOL has very unique project archives, many of which are not available elsewhere. Much of the earlier project archives are in poor condition (e.g. lacking documentation, undigitized data, unsupported formats, etc.) such that a considerable amount of the data and documentation is unusable or currently unavailable in their present form. In the past three years, EOL has also been working closely with other groups within NCAR such as the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) Research Data Archive (RDA), the Library/Archives, and the Digital Image Library to begin to organize and link our archives in a consistent manner adhering to agreed upon best data management practices. This legacy effort was driven particularly in response to the fact that legacy project PIs were retiring, passing away, or the danger that such older archives might disappear forever.

Statements on data legacy and stewardship from both the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) have strongly endorsed such legacy archive efforts. In February 2013, a letter from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also emphasized the need for free and open data and required institutions to make archive data available. In recognition of the value of archived field project information and data, EOL, with the support of NSF, has initiated a process to migrate older “dark” field project data sets into a modern data access system, translating data to more conventional formats and (where possible) linking supporting information such as project reports and publication references to those data. This renewed process of legacy project data stewardship has been initially focused on projects of particular historic importance, and on data that were collected specifically with EOL platforms. In addition, EOL is performing a Laboratory-wide data audit and review of our data holdings. A review of this work will be presented.