It has been a minute. LinkedEarth has been quite active these past few months, with the release of the first paleoclimate ontology, an initial framework for paleo data standards, constant updates to the wiki, and writing much open code to make use of wiki-hosted data : LiPD utilities, GeoChronR, and Pyleoclim.
LinkedEarth postdoc Deborah Khider returned from the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union with much feedback from her three EarthCube demos and poster presentation. Among this feedback are two recurring questions:
- How is what you do different from NOAA/NCDC paleo?
- How long will you be around?
In other words, if LinkedEarth will not be around after the funding cycle ends, and given that there are other databases around, why should I invest any time and effort in your community activities?
The first question was addressed here: contrary to memory organizations like NCDC or PANGAEA, our main goal is to incubate new technologies and standards to facilitate cutting-edge work in paleoclimatology. We are much more nimble and not tied down to maintaining functionalities for legacy datasets. That enables us to innovate much faster, try things out without worrying too much about maintaining operations, and most importantly tailor our work to the current state of the community’s needs. On the other hand, our scope is much narrower and we cannot possibly compete with these organizations in terms of database scope and size (nor do we aspire to). There is no value judgment in any of this: we are different entities, created for different purposes. We are all useful and complementary.
In fact, we have a long-standing partnership with “NOAA paleo” (aka the National Center for Environmental Information Word Data Service for Paleoclimatology). This partnership includes ensuring that every dataset on the wiki can be exported to their preferred ASCII text format, so that they can ensure long-term archival of any piece of data ever put on the wiki. NOAA paleo were also our gracious hosts for the first workshop on Paleoclimate Data Standards, for which we are very grateful.
The other million-dollar question is about our lifetime. Indeed, if our operations will fold at the end of our initial round of EarthCube funding (August 31 of this year), why spend any time on the wiki, annotating datasets or proposing/discussing/voting on data standards?
Let us address this concern head on:
- The site and the wiki are very stable, and require very little resources to keep working. Even if funding were to dry up tomorrow, the platform would keep working for a while (but development, of course, would freeze).
- We are preparing for a second round of EarthCube funding, one that will integrate data and code together to build a data-centered cyber ecosystem for paleoclimate research. Trust us, it will be epic. And if we read the program calls well, what we propose is exactly what they’re looking for.
- We’re also exploring linkages with non-profit organizations that have indicated interest in contributing to our project.
- Like diamonds, ontologies are forever: even if we stop developing our ontology tomorrow (which we won’t), it will live forever in cyber space, until someone like you decides to extend it. Same thing with data standards.
- Most importantly, LinkedEarth is a community-centric project. If the community invests in it, it will be deemed of sufficient interest that agencies or foundations will want to fund it until it has realized its promise. On the other hand, if you start with the assumption that it will soon disappear, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy: low engagement will be taken as a sign of community disinterest, driving away funding.
More than ever, now is the time for the paleoclimate community to get engaged in EarthCube; LinkedEarth is your vehicle to do that. The more engagement there is, the easiest it will become to secure the funding necessary to sustain the development of code and data services that will ultimately change the way we do research in the field. So please don’t be like Voldemort: don’t fall into the trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be the change you want to see in the world. At this point, all it takes is making your voice heard on data standards and (once we’ve worked out a couple of kinks) start using the wiki.
See, progress is easy. You just need to believe in success rather than failure. I know I do, and that’s what made this project happen. It’s also what will keep it going.
See you in the Future,
Julien, for the LinkedEarth team.