The Electronic Geophysical Year: 2007-2008

eGY General Meeting 13-14 March 2006

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The annual meeting of the Electronic Geophysical Year initiative (eGY), held in Boulder, Colorado, March 13-14, was by far the most effective planning meeting so far, greatly strengthening eGY. The program is diversifying as eGY activities and national committees are becoming established in a rapidly growing number of countries--Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK, and the USA.

The meeting succeeded in setting out clear directions and a program for the future. Our vision statement was refined and now reads: We can achieve a major step forward in geoscience capability, knowledge, and usage throughout the world for the benefit of humanity by accelerating the adoption of modern and visionary practices for managing and sharing data and information.

eGY will be launched officially on 1 July 2007 in Perugia and will run until December 2008. Publications and practical demonstrations of modern capability and best practice are to be the major thrust during 2006 for conveying the eGY messages to scientists and others.

The pivotal messages that eGY seeks to convey are encapsulated in the principles set out in the "Declaration for a Geoscience Information Commons." We agreed on a series of meetings, workshops, publications, and a program of developing demonstration projects. One of the most important of these is a general-use case demonstration--a "proof of concept" showcase of the power of virtual observatories and modern information systems to meet present and future information needs of people who are non-specialist scientists (decision-makers, public, and so on) or scientists who come from other specialist backgrounds.

Presentations and handouts are available for downloading here.



Meeting Participants Participant Names

Dan Baker (LASP)
Stuart Ballard (eGY-UK)
Charlie Barton (ANU, IAGA)
Paul Berkman (EvREsearch LTD)
Sky Bristol (USGS Denver)
Eliot Christian (IEOS)
Dave Clark (NOAA/NGDC, WDC)
Emily CoBabe-Ammann (LASP)
Alisdair Davey (SWRI, VSO)
Bob Engdahl (UC, IASPEI)
Joan Fitzpatrick (USGS, GEO)
Peter Fox (NCAR)
Bonnie Kae Grover (LASP)
Don Hassler (SWRI, IHY)

Ernie Hildner (NOAA/SEC)
Mary Hill (USGS, IAHS)
JoAnn Joselyn (IUGG)
Jeff Love (USGS Golden)
John Manuel (Canadian Space Agency)
Lisa Morgan (USGS)
Mark Parsons (SIDS, IPY)
Bill Peterson (LASP)
Marissa Rusinek (LASP)
Fred Spilhaus (AGU)
Barbara Thompson (NASA, IHY)
John Wahr (CIRES, IAG)

The purposes of the meeting were to:

  • Review the status of eGY, national and international developments, and relationships;
  • Review funding, seek new support and patrons, expand participation;
  • Develop the marketing plan and new relationships,
  • Seek feedback from eGY participants and others,
  • Identify specific activities--projects, publications, meetings, conferences, events marketing activities, and VO development.




Dan Baker gave a short presentation summarizing the goals and aspirations of eGY. There is a general purpose PowerPoint presentation addressing these points, which can be downloaded here. eGY participants are encouraged to modify and use this PowerPoint file for presentations they are asked to give about eGY.

Charlie Barton gave a brief description of the handouts provided to participants. Handouts can be downloaded from this page.



Secretariat: Bill Peterson reported on the activities of the Secretariat

UK: Stuart Ballard was introduced as the representative UK eGY committee, which has just been formed.

Canada: John Manuel, from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), reported that they are developing an updated CSA data policy in the next year and will use eGY to help them identify issues and areas to address.

Working Group on Virtual Observatories: Peter Fox (fox_VOrpt031306.ppt)
The VO working group sponsored very successful sessions at the Fall 2005 AGU meeting and has sessions scheduled for the Spring EGS and AGU Meetings. The group will continue to sponsor special sessions at major meetings. A list of the meetings and an outline of a proposed monograph on Virtual Observatories are given in the linked power point presentation.

During Peter's presentation a general discussion about the role of virtual observatories and eGY's role in advocating them began and continued throughout the meeting.

Working Group on Best Practices: Eric Kihn
The eGY Best Practices Working Group is part of a CODATA task group addressing the same topic. A formal meeting of this international group, with limited travel support provided by CODATA, will be held in the next few months. Eric pointed out that in the era of distributed data systems and virtual observatories, long term data preservation becomes more difficult and therefore one of the keys to "best practices" at any data center.

Working Group on Data Integration and Knowledge Discovery: Paul Berkman (Berkman_Digin.ppt)
Paul's presentation described the concept of knowledge discovery by applying inherent structure of data sets rather than by using metadata, markup or databases. It's worth reading in detail. Paul welcomed active eGY participation in the Data Integration and Knowledge Discovery working group. Paul expressed an interest in convening a special session at the Beijing CODATA Meeting later this year, to plan a dynamic data integration experiment between disparate World Data Centers, which was enthusiastically supported by those present. The concept of this experiment emerged from his earlier discussions at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis and International Polar Year (IPY) meeting in Cambridge.

WSIS: Paul Berkman briefly summarized his thoughts about the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) held last fall in Tunis. Over 30,000 people participated in this meeting. One message for Paul from WSIS was that access to information is necessary--but not sufficient. The sufficiency comes with the ability for users (not programmers) to dynamically, objectively and comprehensively integrate information to discover information relationships that underlie new knowledge.

Working Group on Data Rescue and Preservation: Jeffery J. Love, chair of the Working Group on Data Rescue and Preservation, presented a preliminary analysis of the considerations needed to determine if data are worth rescuing and saving (Love_data_preservation_issues.doc). Jeffery will be establishing an interactive web site where these issues can be discussed relating to specific data sets. Jeffery asked for and received support for this approach from the meeting participants. Ernie Hildner noted that he and Mark Parsons were participating in a NOAA sponsored analysis of the long-term preservation and archiving of NOAA sponsored data sets.

ICSU: Mark Parsons summarized a presentation made by Carthage Smith of ICSU (The International Council for Science) at the recent IPY-DIS (International Polar Year-Data and Information System) meeting held in Cambridge, UK (smith_icsu_short.ppt). ICSU has recently had a study of information and is interested in data and information-equitable access and informed decision making. They are setting up an International Science Data and Data Information Forum (SciDIF). There was some discussion about the need for an eGY representative on the SciDIF.

WDC Panel: Dave Clark reported on the World Data Center Panel and WGISS (mar06WDC.ppt, mar06WGISS.ppt). The 53 World Data Centers are of uneven quality and efforts are underway to recertify them for the first time in their 50 year history. Dave pointed out that eGY's focus on interoperability fits in well with current plans. Dave also noted that in the new paradigm of distributed data systems, data preservation becomes an issue, and that's where eGY can seize an opportunity.

AGU-ESSI: Fred Spilhaus and Peter Fox discussed the new AGU Focus Group on Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI). This group was founded at the Spring 2005 AGU meeting. Peter Fox has represented eGY in this group. eGY inspired two very successful ESSI sessions at the Fall 2005 AGU meeting and will continue to do so in the future. Fred Spilhaus encouraged eGY to use AGU's EOS as a way to inform the community of our activities. Peter noted that ESSI now has 200 AGU members who have designated ESSI as their primary affiliation and 700 secondary affiliations. He encouraged eGY members to choose ESSI as a secondary affiliation because when the total number of affiliations is above 1000, ESSI will be able to nominate persons for AGU Fellowship.

Working Group on EPO: Emily CoBabe-Ammann reported on the activities of the EPO (Education and Public Outreach) Working Group (EPOPlan.jpg). At last year's meeting Emily outlined an ambitious project to use data provided by virtual observatories in the classroom. This project involves developing state-of-the-art "general use case" interfaces to several virtual observatories as well as lesson plans and teaching teachers how to use the tools effectively in the classroom. She and Peter Fox were successful in finding partners in the project. These included many virtual observatories, as well as the Sakai Project (an open source course support software group). Hurricane Katrina, however, diverted the attention of the foundations on which we were relying for support. In addition, some reviewers thought that adding a "general use case" interface to existing virtual observatory was a task with difficulty much greater than Emily and Peter envisioned. The EPO project has now been scaled back and focuses on developing the "general use case" interface for a couple of virtual observatories. Emily and Peter believe they can have a demonstration showing how this works by later this summer. When that is done they will again look at approaching foundations for support.

Emily reported that our interactions with the EPO groups associated with the other I*Y's are good.

GEOSS: Eliot Christian reported on the status of GEOSS (the Global Earth Observations System of Systems) (Christian_GEOarch.ppt). This initiative is overseen by the Group on Earth Observations (with over 60 participating nations and 43 international organizations), based in Geneva. The first three slides in Eliot's presentation outline who participates in GEOSS and why. GEOSS reflects a global scientific and political consensus that information vital for societies requires comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observations. The problems of interoperability encountered by GEOSS are formidable. The approach to solving them has been outlined in a 10 year plan (; the file name is "10-Year Plan Reference Document (GEO 1000R).pdf"). Eliot's presentation highlights the issues faced by the GEOSS Architecture Team and their approach to resolving them.

In the discussion that followed this presentation, it was noted that:

  • The issues and approach are similar to those endorsed by eGY
  • The US contribution to GEOSS is called IEOS in which NOAA is a large player

International Year Programs: Charlie Barton discussed eGY Relations between eGY and the three other International Years (IHY, IPY, and IYPE). He noted that the Celimontana meeting held last fall was instrumental in showing the scientific communities that the International Years were working together and making serious efforts to eliminate duplication. The Declaration signed by all four international years is in the handouts noted above.

IHY: Barbara Thomson presented an over view of the International Heliophysical Year (IHY). Barbara discussed the scientific program of IHY and how they are going about coordinating it. Of particular interest to eGY participants is the IGY Gold program, which we jointly sponsor with IHY. This program honors people who participated in the IHY. If you know of such a person, please send their contact information to Barbara or Bill Peterson.

IPY: Mark Parsons presented an overview of The International Polar Year (IPY) with an emphasis on data issues (parsons_ipy_for_egy.ppt). The organizational meeting of the IPY Data Policy Committee chaired by Mark Parsons was held in early April. The eGY representative to this committee is Volodya Papitashvili. Mark's presentation notes that IPY consists so far of more than 30,000 investigators from over 60 countries and the data distribution and archiving challenges are huge. eGY is co-sponsoring the IPY Data and Information System project (IPY-DIS). eGY's contribution to this effort should be directed toward promoting modern data management practices. The recent data policy committee meeting pointed out the need for identifying good data management practices that could be emulated by IPY investigators.

Breakout Group: Cost-benefit analysis: Bill Peterson reported on the discussions of the break out group focusing on performing a cost benefit analysis of good data management practices. They noted that good data management expands the usefulness of data by providing more and better data products that are useful to a wider variety of users. The major additional costs are providing interoperable access to others. Peterson and Eric Kihn agreed to pursue the preliminary discussions and flesh them out with examples and, if possible, quantitative information in an EOS article.

Breakout Group: Showcase demonstrations: Peter Fox reported from the break out session addressing production of showcase examples of state-of-the-art systems that exemplify eGY vision. Twelve projects were identified and rated by "whiz-bang" and "do-ability" factors (wg_showcase.doc). Specific projects include:

  • eGY collaborates in an international project demonstrating the use of geophysical data and information with interoperable standards that allows societies to achieve all-hazards public warning for natural hazards event response and public warning. Eliot Christian agreed to lead this effort.
  • eGY provides access to demonstrations that show how users can utilize the inherent structure of an information resource such as local policies for emergency response to a typhoon event, in order to generate granules (information subsets) that can be dynamically integrated. Paul Berkman agreed to lead this effort.
  • eGY selects an existing geophysical data Web site that displays public information, and produces a duplicate Web site with annotations that (a) reflect public input (ratings and comments), and (b) propagate otherwise hidden metadata on the origins of the data. Peter Fox agreed to lead this effort.
  • eGY conducts a demonstration project showing utilization of hybrid natural hazard data (e.g., wild land fire extent, terrain, suppression treatments X hydrologic and meteorological conditions) to generate human health warnings and risk assessments for potential near-term environmental effects. Joan Fitzpatrick agreed to lead this effort.
  • The Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) is an example of a derivative data product that can be used by an individual to determine risks associated with various coastal processes (e.g., sea level rise, extreme storm impact). The CVI process being conducted by the US Geological Survey and partners brings together a number of different variables and associated data sets to determine risks to coastal sectors. The resultant thematic maps and other methods of expressing risks are determined to be applicable to individual land owners and other coastal stakeholders. The eGY will use this as a showcase project to demonstrate several of its principles, most notably: data access, capability building, and education and public outreach. Sky Bristol agreed to lead this effort.

Breakout Group: Funding: Mark Parsons reported from the working group addressing eGY Funding. The group recommended that eGY develop a presentation/brochure or other materials that show the eGY vision, its value, and specific actions requested. This was followed up later in the meeting by a general discussion lead by Emily CoBabe-Ammann, described below. The funding breakout group also recommended that eGY seek additional federal or foundation funding for "a secretariat"-a smallish grant for administration and to facilitate leadership (only through 2008) to supplement the modest start up grants we have from IAGA, IUGG, and NASA and in-kind support from many organizations.

Breakout Group: Marketing: Marissa Rusinek reported back from the breakout group looking at marketing eGY (Funding_grp_rpt.doc). The group produced an analysis of what is unique about eGY and its target audiences as well as suggestions on how to approach them. This group also recommended production of a brochure or set of brochures addressed to target audiences similar to a recommendation made by the funding breakout group.

A reception was held at the NCAR Mesa Laboratories on Monday evening. Carl Kisslinger and his wife Penny were invited as special guests.



New Brochure: Emily CoBabe-Ammann led a discussion of the focus and content of an eGY brochure addressed to policy makers. Emily will take the lead in assembling this brochure and circulate it for comments.

Personal Perspectives: Participants were asked to provide personal and/or organizational observations about eGY.

Stuart Ballard (UK) reported that e-science has received major funding in the UK. He noted that they were struggling to get a demonstration project illustrating e-science principles to clearly illustrate to scientists who lack time to independently investigate or who have not yet been exposed to current virtual observatory technology.

John Manuel (Canadian Space Agency) noted that the Canadian data policy has been oriented to the mineral sector where data is commercially oriented and/or proprietary. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recognizes the need for open access and is exploring ways to move the data policy in this direction. He feels that eGY can provide contacts that will be useful to them. In particular he is looking for help in educating Canadian space data providers with both a permanent archive plan as well as good models for interoperable data access.

Alisdair Davey (Virtual Solar Observatory) noted that VSO data and software are freely available. In fact there is no provision for data or software "encumbered" by access or use restrictions. VSO has staff and procedures to help ingest new data sets. The only limitations of the VSO are the restricted funding available to maintain and enhance it and the lack of a "general use case" interface for non Solar professionals. The VSO user community views these as minor.

Mary Hill (USGS, International Association of the Hydrological Sciences) noted that there is a large and varied amount of hydrological data but little access to them. The IAHS is looking for improvement in this area.

Sky Bristol (USGS Regional Geographic Information Officer) noted that eGY is directly in line with what USGS is trying to do in regards to providing a framework for sustainable access and to help identify which datasets are important. He would like to see eGY provide consulting and/or development services.

Fred Spilhaus (AGU) came to get a clearer perspective on what eGY was about. He noted that he was originally an oceanographer and did not find any representation from that community. He also noted that he could not find a single short sentence to describe eGY. He suggested that eGY narrow its focus.


Participants spent half an hour identifying future meetings in which eGY should participate, organizations and individuals eGY should contact, newsletters and articles that should be written, and activities for participants.

The eGY calendar has been updated to reflect this input. The group decided that eGY will formally begin on July 1, 2007, in Perugia, Italy, in association with the IUGG conference. eGY will formally cease on December 31, 2008, at a place and in a manner to be determined. It was agreed that eGY will participate in Spring and Fall 2006 AGU meetings, the EGU Meeting in April 2006, the COSPAR meeting in Beijing in July and make a special effort to participate fully in the 2006 CODATA meeting in Beijing.

The rest of the meeting was spent capturing actions that were agreed upon at the meeting. A summary can be found here and in the action log.

The next eGY General Meeting will be held at LASP in March 2007.

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