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Title Managing Data, Provenance and Chaos through Standardization and Automation at the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER Site
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Managing data for a large, multidisciplinary research program such as a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site is a significant challenge, but also presents unique opportunities for data stewardship. LTER research is conducted within multiple organizational frameworks (i.e. a specific LTER site as well as the broader LTER network), and addresses both specific goals defined in an NSF proposal as well as broader goals of the network; therefore, every LTER data can be linked to rich contextual information to guide interpretation and comparison. The challenge is how to link the data to this wealth of contextual metadata.At the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER we developed an integrated information management system (GCE-IMS) to manage, archive and distribute data, metadata and other research products as well as manage project logistics, administration and governance (figure 1). This system allows us to store all project information in one place, and provide dynamic links through web applications and services to ensure content is always up to date on the web as well as in data set metadata. The database model supports tracking changes over time in personnel roles, projects and governance decisions, allowing these databases to serve as canonical sources of project history. Storing project information in a central database has also allowed us to standardize both the formatting and content of critical project information, including personnel names, roles, keywords, place names, attribute names, units, and instrumentation, providing consistency and improving data and metadata comparability. Look up services for these standard terms also simplify data entry in web and database interfaces.We have also coupled the GCE-IMS to our MATLAB- and Python-based data processing tools (i.e. through database connections) to automate metadata generation and packaging of tabular and GIS data products for distribution. Data processing history is automatically tracked throughout the data life-cycle, from initial import through quality control, revision and integration by our data processing system (GCE Data Toolbox for MATLAB), and included in metadata for versioned data products. This high level of automation and system integration has proven very effective in managing the chaos and scalability of our information management program.

Contributor Wade M. Sheldon

Sheldon, W.M. Jr. 2013. Presentation: Managing Data, Provenance and Chaos through Standardization and Automation at the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER Site. IN53C: Data Stewardship in Theory and Practice. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2013, 13-Dec-2013, San Francisco, California.

Key Words automation, data management, database, informatics, LTER-IMC, provenance, standardization
File Date 2013
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.