CloudEARTH

CloudEARTH is a proposal of a pilot study submitted to the Digitaliseringsrådet at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.


Proposal summary

Good management, storing and sharing of research data are key principles for UiT The Arctic University of Norway, rooted in the value of increased transparency and quality of research, and the UiT’s social mission as a major player in the north. Although it is significant, researchers do often not value the great importance that open-access research data provides. Most of the researchers consider preparing their research data to be deposited in open-access repositories as a time-consuming process, neglecting the needs of the scientific community to re-use these data. This proposal suggests executing a pilot project to construct a cloud platform that allows the researchers to upload, handle, recalculate, and plot their research data (i.e., a tool to handle the data during the active phase of a project). The research data will be uploaded to the cloud platform as raw data, and the researchers will get the benefits of using the online tool to interpret their data and prepare it for publications. This data can then easily be transferred to a data repository through which it can be shared (sharing the data will be voluntary during the pilot study). Consequently, the researchers will not consider uploading their research data as a time-consuming and useless process anymore. The cloud platform will be tested at the Department of Geosciences, UiT, using research data of the Solid Earth Science research group. The cloud platform will be developed in close collaboration with the University Library (UB) and will use DataverseNO as the main data repository. The pilot project aims to gain experience in arranging technical/programming infrastructure for developing the suggested cloud platform, map the need for competence building and support services for researchers who will use such a tool, propose a management model for research data at the Solid Earth Science research group and describe what is needed to implement such a full-scale service. The pilot project is suggested to be implemented for 6 months.


Content of the proposal

Background and challenges  

CloudEARTH – objectives of the pilot study  

Department of Geosciences – a case study

Data sharing policy during the pilot study

Meet the strategic plans of UiT and Norwegian Research Council

Strengthening existing infrastructure and ongoing projects

Implementation plan, Organization and PI

Project risk and future opportunities

Budget


Background and challenges  

Before 2003, the term “Open Access” was related only to free access to peer-reviewed literature (e.g. Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002). In 2003, through the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities”, the definition was considered to have a wider scope that includes raw research data, metadata, source materials and scholarly multimedia material. In line with the goals to facilitate the Open Access to researchers, a set of policies about, as well as methods for publishing, archiving, and disseminating data were made.

However, setting up the roles and the policies is not enough to encourage the researchers to make their research data openly to the scientific community. Some of the senior researchers are not trained enough to upload research data to different open-access repositories (e.g., as discussed during the brainstorming session for digitalization of research on 23 Sep. 2020), while junior researchers cannot see credit out of making their data openly available. As a result, the most challenging barrier facing open science is to encourage researchers to make their research data available through open-access repositories.

Moreover, the future of open science does not lie only in making the research data openly available, but the future is how to use, share and work collaboratively on the same data set but remotely (i.e., cloud computation). This is true for all the research disciplines that rely on data but in particular the Earth and Environmental Sciences where the research data plays a major role to help the society facing challenges of sustainable development.


CloudEARTH – objectives of the pilot study  

The main objective of the proposal is to encourage researchers to make their research data openly available by giving them access to a platform to handle their raw data. This platform (i.e., CloudEARTH) will be beyond archiving and storage the research data by allowing cloud processing of the raw data. The researchers will see the direct benefits of using such a platform and therefore the preparation of the research data to be uploaded to the CloudEARTH will not be considered a time-consuming process. Moreover, the CloudEARTH will allow using the research data remotely and in a collaborative way which is another factor that encourages the researcher to upload their data.

The pilot study aims to:

  • gain experience in arranging technical/programming infrastructure for developing the suggested cloud platform
  • map the need for competence building and support services for researchers who will use such a service
  • propose a management model for research data at the Solid Earth Science research group
  • describe what is needed to implement such a full-scale service

Department of Geosciences – a case study

The suggested pilot project will be executed and tested at the Department of Geosciences, UiT, using published research data of the Solid Earth Science research group. The Department of Geosciences is chosen here as a case study for three reasons: 1) the absence of any cloud-based tools to handle raw geochemical, mineralogical and petrological data is the main motivation to use research data from the Solid Earth Science research group to be the base of the pilot study; 2) The Earth and Environmental Sciences are by their nature a dynamic field in which new issues continue to arise and old ones often evolve. Therefore, uploading the current research data will help facing challenges of the sustainable development of the society; 3) The Department of Geosciences has several large research projects financed by the Research Council of Norway, EU, and different oil and mining companies. Also, the department includes several research centers including CAGE (i.e., the center of excellence for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate). Therefore, the CloudEARTH will encourage many researchers in different fields to be involved in open science by extending the platform to other disciplines.


Data sharing policy during the pilot study

During the pilot study, all the research data will be in private mode (i.e., only researchers have access to the data). Uploading the research data to the open-access repository will be voluntary. Researchers who decided to upload their data to the open-access repository will have an option to use the embargo period (according to the UiT rules).


Meet the strategic plans of UiT and Norwegian Research Council

The suggested pilot project lies directly at the core of the strategic plans of both  UiT and the Norwegian Research Council. Developing new cutting-edge technologies that help researchers to develop their research is the central point of the 2014-2022 strategic plan of  UiT. Applying the developed technology using data from the Earth and Environmental Sciences will help to achieve the strategic aims in the research fields of: 1) sustainable use of resources and 2) energy, climate, society and environment.


Strengthening existing infrastructure and ongoing projects

The suggested project will use, link, and strengthen existing infrastructure at UiT. For the pilot study, a small space from the internal server at UB will be used to test the code and develop the CloudEARTH user-interface. However,  the research data of the full-scale model of the CloudEARTH will be stored and sorted on the ResearchData infrastructure which is a service run by the section for Digital Research Services. For both the pilot project and the full-scale model, the plan is to automatize the transformation of the data from the ResearchData storage to the DataverseNO which is a service run by UiT. Therefore the CloudEARTH will facilitate the communications between the ResearchData and DataverseNO. Moreover, sharing of the data during the active phase of a project among team members will be linked to the ongoing Rspace project.  


Implementation plan, Organization and PI

The project will be carried out as a joint project between UB and the Department of Geosciences. The Department of Geosciences will be the main host of the project. The project will run for 6 months in two phases. Phase I: for three months and aims to adopt and adapt the programming code, the algorithm and creating the database that will be used as a base for the cloud computation. Phase II: for three months and aims to use the CloudEARTH by different researchers at the Solid Earth group, UiT. To attract more researchers and get reliable feedback on the service, other researchers from outside UiT will be invited to test the CloudEARTH. The pilot project will be concluded with a report to summarize the results and the final recommendations.

Principal investigator: the responsibility for the project will be assigned to Tamer Abu-Alam. Abu-Alam is a geochemist and petrologist (i.e., solid Earth scientist) who has extensive experience[i] in handling research data. Moreover, Abu-Alam has extensive experience in creating databases and writing codes using different computer languages. He is a project manager at UB for a project that aims to promote open science and open-access research data published about the Polar Regions (i.e., Open Polar project).


Project risk and future opportunities

Several cloud-based computation tools are existing (e.g., MathWorks Cloud, Wolfram Cloud, openstack). However, most of these tools require subscription and advanced programming skills of the users. In other words, there is no risk associated to fail in the development and adaptation of the technology. But the CloudEARTH will be more specified to the Earth Sciences and will provide the users with free to use tool with an interactive graphical user interface (code-free interface). EarthCube is an ongoing project funded by NSF and aims to share geosciences data interactively based on the FAIR principles, however, the EarthCube does not cover the Solid Earth data (i.e., geochemistry, petrology and mineralogy). It will be a future opportunity for cooperation between the UiT (i.e., CloudEARTH) and the NSF (i.e., EarthCube) to develop the CloudEARTH tools at the international level.


Budget

To access information of this section, please contact Tamer Abu-Alam at tamer.abu-alam@uit.no


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