ARCTIC LTER INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Information management at the Arctic LTER has two principal aims. The first is to maximize data access both within the project and to other researchers. We try to maximize data access by rapidly adding new data sets to the data base (usually before publication) and by making all of the data sets available for downloading by anyone; the only requirement is that NSF and the Arctic LTER project be acknowledged in any use of the data. The second aim is to optimize data usability and integration for within-site synthesis and modeling, regional and long-term scaling, and multisite or global comparisons and syntheses. This is achieved through making multiple kinds of measurements on the same sites (often the same small plots), usually at about the same time. Careful planning at the research design stage is required to ensure that any single set of measurements is easily linked to other measurements made at the same or nearby sites.
The structure of our information management system parallels the overall management structure of the project (Site Management section). A Senior Research Assistant, Jim Laundre, is the overall project information manager with responsibility for overseeing the integrity of the Arctic LTER information system. There are four major components to the information system, linked to the terrestrial, streams, lakes, and landscape interactions research components. Information management is a primary responsibility of the four full-time research assistants (including Laundre) associated with each of these four research components. While each of the four assistants maintains the data in their area, all are in frequent communication on overall data compatibility and metadata standards (three work at the MBL in Woods Hole, one is at the University of Michigan). Each of these assistants is also heavily involved in the actual research design, day-to-day management, and data collection within their area. The four research assistants work closely in the field with investigators, technicians, and students to ensure quality control and appropriate documentation. Overall guidance is provided by the PI Steering Committee while Laundre attends the LTER Network Information Manager's meetings and makes sure we are kept up to date and compatible with Network data standards.
Each year at our annual winter meeting in Woods Hole we review the status of the information system and ways of improving its accessibility and ease of use. At this meeting we focus in particular on the upcoming summer season and on how to design our research for optimum integration of diverse data sets. All project personnel including postdocs, graduate students, and occasional REU students participate in these discussions.
General information about the Arctic LTER project is provided on our web site including site descriptions, past proposals and other documents, a site bibliography including publications based on project research educational opportunities, contact information for site personnel, and links to related sites. This information is updated about once a year, or whenever major changes occur.
Datasets of the Arctic LTER project are available without restrictions and can be downloaded by anyone from the Arctic LTER web site. We ask only that the LTER project and the principal investigator responsible for the data set be informed and that NSF and the Arctic LTER be acknowledged in any papers published in which the data are used. See data use policy.
Data from the large-scale experiments and from routine monitoring are available online as soon as the data are checked for quality and, where necessary, transformed for presentation in standard units and scales. Many data sets, such as weather observations, stream flow, flower counts, and data that do not require a great deal of post-collection chemical or other analysis, are available within 3-6 months of collection. Other data, particularly from samples requiring chemical analysis in our home laboratories, may take up to two years before they appear on-line. We also encourage others working on the LTER sites but not funded by the LTER project to contribute their datasets to our online database.
In addition to datasets on our web server the Arctic LTER also participates in the LTER Network’s ClimDB and HydroDB information systems. These centralized databases provide access to meteorological and hydrological data from all the LTER sites.
Research investigators, assistants and students who collect the data are responsible for data analysis, quality control, and documentation. This insures that the data are checked and documented by those most familiar with the data. While investigators may use any software for their own data entry and analysis, we expect that all documentation and datasets that are submitted conform to the required Arctic LTER formats. The metadata and data are submitted using Arctic LTER’s Excel based metadata form. Comments are used extensively throughout the sheet to aid in filling out the data. Data validation lists are used to created drop down lists for units, measurement scale and number types. For researcher that don’t use Excel a rich text form is available with the data being submitted as comma delimited ASCII.
Researchers are encouraged to include the metadata worksheet in their working Excel workbooks to facilitate documentation. The worksheet was designed to be easily moved or copied. There are no macros and text boxes are used for sections with more then 256 characters since moving or copying an Excel worksheet truncates the text in cells to 256 characters. For a discussion of the design criteria used see Updating Arctic Metadata Entry Form.
Submitted files are checked for conformance by the four research assistants. Once files are accepted, they are placed in the appropriate data directories on the web. An Excel macro is used to parse the metadata form and generate html, xml and data files need for accessing the data via the web. The xml file conforms to the LTER network’s “EML Best practices” to level 4. The xml file is uploaded to the LTER Network Office metacat server via a harvest list. Uploaded files are then available from the LTERNET Data Catalog or any metacat server.
Geographic information from the Toolik Lake region is extensive, detailed, and linked to several key global and regional data bases. Because much of this first-class information system was developed with funding independent from the Arctic LTER project, we have focused our efforts on insuring access to this extremely valuable database and on optimizing its usability for our needs. Where appropriate, we have contributed small amounts of funds and personnel support to guarantee this access and usability. Links to the key GIS databases are provided on the Arctic LTER web site these include:
The data are stored on an Microsoft windows server with level 3 raid. The data files are backed up on tape daily. Once a month a tape is removed and stored in a separate building.
Currently all our legacy metadata has been converted to Ecological Metadata Language (EML) but only at EML Best Practices level 2/3 (no attribute EML). In bringing the files up to level 4, the files will be reviewed and where appropriate consolidated into multi-year files. Differences in methods and personnel will require that some years remain separate. For some datasets we are also investigating using a relational database for storing and retrieving subsets of data. Especially appropriate would be climate data and routine measurements.
Plans are also underway to work with the Toolik Field Station GIS manager to generate EML files for some of the basic site GIS files. This would include the research locations and layers with vegetation, topography, streams and lakes.
As mention in the Site Management section, Toolik Field Station started an environmental monitoring program and will be taking over some of the basic climate and environmental measurements, e.g. precipitation chemistry. These legacy databases will be transferred and housed at UAF. Jim Laundre will be working closely with the Toolik Field Station Information manager during this transferred.
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