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GCE Information System Overview

Background Information

The GCE Information System, or GCE-IS, is an information management framework designed to acquire, organize, document and maintain all the various products of GCE LTER research.  Two major design goals of the system are to promote data discovery by providing integrated access to shared data, and to produce a long-term research record that will last beyond the lifetime of the project.  The GCE-IS is also structured to meet NSF OCE and LTER Program data submission directives, and to support participation in multi-site LTER database initiatives, such as ClimDB for meteorological observations.

Some of the key resources that are managed under the GCE-IS are:

  • GCE Monitoring data and documentation
  • GCE Directed Study data and documentation
  • Bibliographic information for GCE publications
  • Presentations of GCE research
  • Geographic descriptions and research histories of GCE sites
  • Photographs of GCE sites and research activities
  • Contact information for GCE personnel

GCE-IS Components

The GCE-IS is implemented using a variety of software technologies, including relational database management software (e.g. Microsoft® SQL Server), custom software applications (e.g. Ma08-Sep-2011 Active Server Page technology and various scripting languages (e.g. VBScript, JavaScript and Perl).

GCE-IS information in digital files and databases are stored on several different hardware platforms located in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia.  These hardware components presently include dedicated web, database and file servers, data management workstations, and various external data storage devices.  Network and file security, fault-tolerant hardware designs, and data redundancy have all been incorporated into the design of the GCE-IS to ensure that project resources are not lost or used inappropriately.

Regardless of their type and physical location, though, all resources are accessible on the GCE Public Web Site (http://gce-lter.marsci.uga.edu/), GCE Private Web Site (https://gce-lter.marsci.uga.edu/public/private.htm) or GCE Data Portal site (http://gce-lter.marsci.uga.edu/portal/monitoring.htm). This web-based strategy provides a consistent and familiar interface for all users regardless of their proximity to UGA or computer platform preference. In addition to tools for submitting and accessing data online, tools have also being developed for displaying, analyzing and reorganizing data prior to downloading. This technology enhances prospects for data discovery and also permits users a high level of control over the final content and format of data sets they acquire.

General Resources

A variety of general resources will be provided by the GCE-IS to aid investigators in their research efforts.  Some existing and planned resources are as follows:

  • Lists of Site Standards for commonly-measured parameters and other conventions
    (to improve the inter-comparability of GCE data sets)
  • Geographic information about each GCE sampling site, cross-referenced to research
    histories, maps, photographs, and data sets
  • Collections of various downloadable files and online analytical tools
  • An archive of announcements, newspaper articles and other media releases relevant to the GCE site and
    Georgia coast, to provide background material for presentation and proposals
  • Searchable databases for metadata, site photographs, and publications

Data Resources

Three primary categories of research data will be managed under the GCE-IS:

  1. Data from GCE monitoring activities
  2. Data from individual directed studies
  3. Other (non-GCE) data resources of interest to GCE participants

The requirements, accessibility, and submission procedures differ slightly for each category, as described below:

GCE Monitoring Data

Most monitoring data are observations resulting from core monitoring efforts by GCE program staff and investigators, as outlined in the 1999 GCE LTER Proposal (e.g. meteorological, hydrographic, and nutrient data from fixed monitoring stations).  However, other long-term, systematically-collected measurements taken by GCE investigators in the course of their individual research can also be contributed as monitoring data.  Contributors are encouraged to consult with the Data Manager and Project Administrator when deciding whether to contribute ancillary observations as monitoring or directed study data.

The key characteristics of monitoring data are:

  1. observations are made over long temporal scales (e.g. years)
  2. observations are made using consistent methodology
  3. observations are made at fixed or well-defined locations (i.e. spatially consistent)
  4. data are made available immediately to GCE participants, and to the scientific community after at most 1 year (see Data Access Policies)

Unlike data from individual studies, monitoring data are regarded as project-level resources.  Investigators will be cited for their contributions, and users will be encouraged to include the contributor in research leading to publication of the data.

Investigators contributing monitoring data should contact the Data Manager early in the data preparation process.  The repetitive nature of monitoring data sets makes standardization and automation very worthwhile, and custom data processing services may be provided by the Data Manager, when practical, to assist the contributor.

GCE Directed Study Data

Data from GCE directed studies are not subject to the same content restrictions and accessibility criteria as monitoring data (see Data Access Policies).  GCE investigators are expected to contribute their individual data in a timely fashion, typically within six months of the completion of observations or analysis, but the data will not be released immediately to other investigators or the public until the date specified.  This delay is meant to allow contributors sufficient time to publish their results.

Contributors are encouraged to provide their directed study data to GCE participants as soon as possible to foster collaboration within the project.  Additionally, NSF mandates that data be made available to the scientific community at most two years after conclusion of the observations or study, unless further delay is justified in advance.

Individual investigators are generally responsible for all data processing, quality control, and formatting of directed study data (see Data Submission Guidelines).

Other Data Resources

Data from non-GCE sources may be included in the GCE-IS, as time and resources permit, to aid project participants in their research.  Incorporation and accessibility of these data will depend on policies set by the responsible project, institution, or agency.  Examples of non-GCE data sets that may be included, pending authorization, are Georgia Rivers LMER Project data and USGS discharge data for the Altamaha River.

   GCE Information System (contents) Data Submission 
LTER
NSF

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959 and OCE-1237140. 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.