Science Policy & Funding AGU News

Grant Will Advance Standards Promoting Open, High-Quality Data

Ensuring that data in the Earth and space sciences are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) lies at the heart of a new project funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.


Scientific advancement increasingly relies on large and complicated databases and models to thrive. Earth and space scientists, in particular, often grapple with complex systems to help society manage the threats of natural hazards and climate change. The scientific community faces many challenges to preserve often nonreproducible data and to catalog and store them in ways that are searchable and understandable.

To address these challenges, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has awarded a grant to a coalition of scientific groups, convened by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing the international Earth and space science community. The grant will allow the coalition to develop standards to connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories across the sciences. These standards are meant to render data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), with the aim of enhancing the integrity and reproducibility of data and accelerating scientific discovery.

“AGU’s commitment to open data and data stewardship started in 1997 when we developed one of the first society position statements on open data,” said Chris McEntee, AGU’s executive director/CEO. Now, with the foundation’s support and close collaboration among scientific organizations, publishers, and data centers, the Earth and space sciences will become “the first scientific field to have open and well-described data as a default.”

The coalition currently includes AGU, Earth Science Information Partners, and the Research Data Alliance and has support from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Nature, Science, AuScope, the Australian National Data Service, and the Center for Open Science.

—JoAnna Wendel (@JoAnnaScience), Staff Writer

Citation: Wendel, J. (2017), Grant will advance standards promoting open, high-quality data, Eos, 98, Published on 28 August 2017.
© 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Brad Sherman

    I wish them well. Various organisations have been trying to achieve this for decades. The greatest challenge is persuading willing donors of data sets to provide the metadata required to make their datasets discoverable and to describe the procedures used to collect the data. I’ve faced this dilemma myself – I’m a willing donor but it wasn’t in my job description to spend the time required to populate the metadata required by the archive. If someone could be hired to populate all those fields on the data provider’s behalf …

    • Steven Adler

      Brad, I agree. Data normalization across non-heterogeneous data sets is not a technical challenge in most instances. Most of the time it is a cultural and financial challenge. You have to persuade lots of competing groups to map what they have to a new abstraction layer, change how they collect and use data in the future, and someone has to pay for those changes on an ongoing basis. Business do this all the time, but enterprise IT budgets are vastly larger than the IT budgets of scientific institutions. I personally don’t believe methods like that described above will succeed without very large sources of funding and a centralized authority like the United Nations to provide the necessary linked data infrastructure and methods. No nation or foundation on earth has enough political stability to provide common resources like this for more than 8 years at a time…