Building Open Data Bridges between Policymakers and Researchers

By Alec (Chih-Yuan) Huang, PhD Student, GeoSensor Web Lab, University of Calgary

The Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Sensing (GeoCENS) team recently travelled to the CANARIE Showcase in Ottawa, ON, during Nov 16-18. Every CANARIE Network-Enabled Platform (NEP) project was given a booth to demonstrate its innovations to attendees of the 3rd Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC). (This annual event draws together key science policy stakeholders to debate and create advice on future Canadian innovation policies.)

At last year's CANARIE showcase, project Co-Principal Investigator Steve Liang, David Chang and myself demonstrated the GeoCENS project's first year of work, including its social network-enabled portal, Open Geospatial Consortium web service search engine, and NASA WorldWind-based Sensor Web browser. This year, the GeoCENS team had much more to show. We loaded even more datasets into the portal, connected to more sensor web servers, and improved the loading performance to be four times faster. The GeoCENS site is also now accessible via mobile devices (such as iPads).

Most of the people who came to our booth offered positive feedback on our project. One person said the GeoCENS portal could potentially help children with their school science projects (as it can give them real-time information on how the Earth's ecosystem is operating). In addition, since the CSPC conference was for science policy, we also met representatives from government (primarily Environment Canada). Many expressed interest in the "open data" concept behind our project, and asked about its future direction, which is a good sign for our continued development!

Another highlight of the event worth mentioning was our talk with Benoit Pirenne, an Associate Director from the NEP-funded NEPTUNE Canada project. As mentioned in a previous Cybera blog by one of my colleagues, Christopher Kyle, the GeoCENS project would like to cooperate with NEPTUNE on sharing sensor information. Through this showcase event, we had an opportunity to discuss with Pirenne how to access NEPTUNE's undersea sensor data stream feeds using their APIs (application programming interfaces). This discussion has continued since we returned from the showcase. Thanks to CANARIE's NEP network, collaborations between projects are becoming much easier. And now that the GeoCENS project has received CANARIE NEP Maintenance Program funding, we will definitely continue to try to discover more opportunities to establish connections with other NEP projects.

Overall, the showcase provided a great opportunity to show science policymakers the capability and future directions of the GeoCENS project, as well as emphasize the importance of "open data" for all Canadians.