Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A new NERC Data Policy

A new Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Data Policy will come into force in January 2011. It reflects NERC's continuing commitment to openness and transparency in the research process, including access to the data that underpin research publications, and the government's requirement for open access to public data.

The Policy covers environmental data acquired, assembled or created through research, survey and monitoring activities that are either fully or partially funded by NERC.

There are a number of significant changes when compared to NERC's existing Data Policy. However, to allow NERC time to implement new grant application and review processes, some elements will not be implemented immediately.

NERC's data provide the underpinning evidence for scientific research and public policy.©

Key items

The new Data Policy
  • Provides a clear definition of environmental data — placing the government's concept of public data in a scientific context.
  • Dictates that all environmental data held by the NERC Data Centres will be made available for free without any restrictions on use. Exceptions include a limited number of data sets where third party rights require NERC to restrict access or to levy charges, or for large or complex requests, where NERC may charge for the cost of supplying the data.
  • Introduces a formal requirement for all applications for NERC funding to include an outline data management plan, and a requirement for successful applicants, in conjunction with the relevant NERC data centre, to produce a full data management plan.
  • Introduces the concept of the NERC 'Data Value Checklist'. This checklist details the criteria used to identify the long-term value of environmental data and also communicates the decisions made by the NERC Data Centres during the acquisition and disposal of data.
  • Provides a clear definition of how long researchers will be entitled to exclusive access to the data they generate. This 'right of first use' will normally be two years from the end of data collection.
  • Introduces a new requirement that all research publications arising from NERC funding must include a statement on how the supporting data and any other relevant research materials can be accessed.
In light of this new NERC Data Policy, the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) is reviewing its data holdings and work is underway to ensure that our data access policies reflect these changes.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Improved 'online shopping' for data

In line with our commitment to improve data access, data services and your experience of our web site, the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) announces a new release of our 'all data series' download service.

This provides online delivery for data (~ 76,000 series) held in the National Oceanographic Database (NODB). The enhancements include:
  1. improved project searches — data linked to multiple projects as appropriate.
  2. cruise searches — search for data collected during a particular research cruise.
  3. repeat time series (fixed station) searches — find data from key locations, for example the Drake passage or the Ellett Line repeat sections.
  4. improved originator searching — allowing for organisational name changes.
Additionally, we are aware of a slow response time in Internet Explorer which is not present in other browsers. The enhancements have included some modifications to remedy this and improvement has been made. However, as your experience is important to us we will continue this work for following releases.

'Shopping' for data ©

More about the download service

First released in 2009, the 'all data series' download facility encompasses physical, geophysical, chemical and biological measurements. Additional data, for example over two million discrete samples collected from water bottles, will eventually be available via this service. In the interim, please contact our Enquiries Officer for more information.

The 'all data series' facility offers
  • 'anonymous' searching — search prior to registration or log in.
  • 'online shopping' — add data to a basket and check out your request.
  • a choice of data file formats.
  • free auto-delivery of more than 55,000 data series to academic users, with around 30,500 freely available to everyone.
  • free auto-delivery of restricted data series to users with the correct credentials.
  • 'request' tracking and download facility.
Work is continuing to bring this functionality to our other data facilities.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans update

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) maintain and make available global bathymetric data sets on behalf of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) community.

GEBCO have released version 20100927 of the GEBCO_08 Grid — a global bathymetric grid with 30 arc-second spacing.

Bathymetry of the Weddell Sea region from the latest release of the GEBCO_08 Grid. ©

The new release includes new bathymetric compilations for the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Weddell Sea regions. This is now available for download alongside the GEBCO_08 Source Identifier and GEBCO One Minute Grids. Users have the option of downloading the complete netCDF grid file(s) or a file covering a user-defined area.

More about the GEBCO_08 Grid

The GEBCO_08 Grid was generated by combining quality-controlled ship depth soundings with interpolation between sounding points guided by satellite-derived gravity data. It is a continuous terrain model for ocean and land with the land data largely derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM30) data set.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

BODC data scientists supporting science at sea

Two British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) Data Scientists are currently participating in NERC research cruises in the Atlantic Ocean.

RRS James Cook - pre-dawn sampling ©

Ed Mawji is aboard the RRS Discovery, along with NERC colleagues from the National Oceanography Centre, in his role as Data Manager for the GEOTRACES International Data Assembly Centre (GDAC). GEOTRACES is an international project, involving around 30 countries, investigating the oceans' biogeochemical cycles and large-scale trace element distribution.

Meanwhile, Rob Thomas is on the RRS James Cook as part of the twentieth Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) cruise. AMT is a programme established in 1995 consisting of biological, chemical and physical oceanographic research on yearly voyages along a transect between the UK and South Atlantic. Rob's duties will be assisting with the sampling programme and ensuring high-quality data management.

To find out how they are getting on, visit the GEOTRACES and AMT cruise blogs.

Friday, 15 October 2010

NERC Environmental Data Centres - do they meet your needs?

The Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC)  Environmental Data Centres have responsibility for the long-term management of data and for providing access to NERC's data holdings. They also provide support and guidance in data management to NERC-funded researchers.

Understanding users' requirements and expectations, including obstacles that may prevent someone using data is essential to meeting user needs. Therefore NERC is seeking the views of the wider community and would be grateful if you could spare the time (10 - 15 minutes) to complete an online questionnaire which will be available until 19 November 2010.

Seeking the opinion of the wider community ©

We appreciate that you may have recently been involved in similar marine focused exercises, but would welcome your views in the context of NERC responsibilities as a whole.

Your response will help us plan for future developments, in accordance with NERC’s Science Information Strategy, and will provide the basis for further discussion and consultation. The results of the study will be made available through the NERC website early 2011.

NERC's data holdings and Science Information Strategy

The Earth is relentlessly changing. Tracing and understanding past environmental change plays an important role in the prediction of future environmental change. The data held by NERC consists of historical records accumulated over decades that provide a valuable resource to support research, survey and monitoring activities and for users in academia, government, the public sector, industry and commerce.

NERC has recently launched a new Science Information Strategy. It has been created to provide a framework to work more closely and effectively with the scientific communities, both internal and external, in delivering data and information management services to support its five year science strategy, the Next Generation Science for the Planet Earth.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Vocabulary Editor Client launched by BODC

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) announces the launch of the Vocabulary Editor Client (version 1.0) which allows external authorities 'editing access' to controlled vocabularies held within the NERC Vocabulary Server, which is hosted by BODC.

Within the VocabEditor Client authorised editors may maintain terms — insert, modify or deprecate — within the lists under their governance without the need for manual interaction by BODC.

 An example of a controlled vocabulary XML document ©

The Vocabulary server provides access to 137 lists containing more than 137,000 standardised terms that cover a broad spectrum of disciplines of relevance to the oceanographic and wider community.

Using standardised sets of terms, otherwise known as 'controlled vocabularies', in metadata and to label data solves the problem of ambiguities associated with data markup. It also enables records to be interpreted by computers, opening up the data sets to a whole world of possibilities for computer aided manipulation, distribution and long term use.

In the real world, it is not always possible or agreeable for data providers to use the same term. In such cases, controlled vocabularies can be used as a medium to which data centres can map their equivalent terms. V1.1 includes methods that access over 101,000 mappings held between terms in the vocabulary server.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

BODC has contributed to the 'Charting Progress 2 : The state of UK seas' (CP2) report

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) has contributed to the Charting Progress 2 (CP2) report which was launched publicly on 21 July 2010 by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries. The report provides the most comprehensive assessment of the current state of the UK's seas and is based on robust, peer-reviewed evidence collected by a number of UK marine agencies.
Charting Progress 2: The state of UK seas ©

To help achieve the Government's goal of 'clean, safe, healthy, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas' the first Charting Progress (CP) report was published in 2005. This provided an initial assessment of the UK marine environment and identified key areas for improvement, including new strategies for effective monitoring, reducing contaminant levels and improved data management.

CP2 looks at the effectiveness of the CP strategies and identifies where further work is needed. Its findings will be used in policy-making decisions.

How has BODC contributed?

The evidence in CP2 comes from data collected by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) Evidence Groups which are presented in detail in the four Feeder Reports, namely
  1. *The Ocean Processes Feeder Report
  2. The Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Feeder Report
  3. *The Clean and Safe Seas Feeder Report — includes sections authored by BODC staff
  4. The Productive Seas Feeder Report
BODC managed data holdings were used in two (*) of these four Feeder Reports. For example, the Marine Environment Monitoring and Assessment National database (MERMAN) provides the evidence base for the Clean and Safe Seas Feeder Report. MERMAN was established following a CP recommendation and is managed by BODC on behalf of the Clean Safe Seas Evidence Group. It stores contaminant data collected in accordance with the UK's monitoring requirements.

Additionally, a key action from CP was to improve the effectiveness of marine monitoring programmes. To meet this need BODC developed the United Kingdom Directory of the Marine Observing Systems (UKDMOS). This web-based application provides information to help coordinate the UK monitoring programmes.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

European Directory of Marine Environmental Data (EDMED)

On behalf of the SeaDataNet community the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) announce the release of a new display interface for the European Directory of Marine Environmental Data (EDMED) version 1.0. EDMED is searchable via either the SeaDataNet or BODC web sites.

Common seals on Scottish shores ©

What is EDMED?

EDMED is a comprehensive reference to the marine datasets and collections held within European research laboratories. It provides marine scientists, engineers and policy makers with a simple mechanism for data discovery.

Its origins date back to 1991 and it has undergone various revisions under the SEA-SEARCH and SeaDataNet initiatives. It has established itself as a European standard for indexing and searching datasets relating to the marine environment.

It covers a wide range of disciplines, for example
  • marine meteorology and atmospheric chemistry
  • physical, chemical and biological oceanography
  • human impact on the environment
  • fisheries and aquaculture
  • coastal and estuarine studies
  • marine geology and geophysics
EDMED catalogues datasets, irrespective of their format. Entries describe
  • digital databases or files
  • analogue records — paper charts, hard-copy tabulations
  • photographs and videos
  • geological samples
  • biological specimens
Directory entries are prepared by institutes and collated nationally. These national directories are combined to provide a single centralised system managed by BODC.

Monday, 19 April 2010

New National Oceanography Centre Director appointed.

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) wishes to welcome Professor Edward Hill as the new Director of our host laboratory, the NERC's National Oceanography Centre (NOC). He takes up his new role with immediate effect and we are looking forward to working with him.

Professor Edward Hill ©

NOC was formed on 01 April 2010 by bringing together into a single institution the NERC-managed activity at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) in Liverpool.

Professor Hill, the former director of NOCS, was selected to lead the new centre following an open recruitment and selection process. Professor Andrew Willmott, the former director of POL, will be a key member of the senior leadership team for NOC.

NOC will work in close partnership with the wider marine science community to create the integrated research capability needed to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. Research priorities will include the oceans' role in climate change, sea level change and the future of the Arctic Ocean.

Monday, 8 March 2010

BODC joins the SeaDataNet Virtual Data System

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC), with an initial contribution of more than 10,000 data series, has joined 24 other SeaDataNet partners actively providing data through the SeaDataNet Virtual Data System. The system is based on an index, the Common Data Index (CDI), which is populated with ISO19115-based metadata records to describe data stored in either netCDF or a simple ASCII format.

SeaDataNet partners in Europe ©

The CDI is searchable through a portal interface, which provides a range of filtering options to identify data (profile, time series or trajectory) of interest that may be added to a 'shopping trolley' for subsequent delivery.

Most data in the system are freely available under the terms and conditions of the SeaDataNet licence but some may require negotiation with the data owners before they can be released. User registration, which includes agreeing to the SeaDataNet licence, is mandatory.

The SeaDataNet partnership brings together 49 major European institutes and marine data centres from 35 countries in and around Europe. These include
  • 40 National Oceanographic Data Centres and Satellite Data Centres — representing the backbone of the marine data and information infrastructure
  • Research laboratories and modelling centres — experts in the development of value-added products
  • Four International Organisations
They manage large sets of data, originating from their own institutes and from other parties in their country, using a variety of data management systems and configurations.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Oceanology International 2010

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) will be participating in the forthcoming Oceanology International event (Oi10). This takes place from 09-11 March 2010 at ExCeL London, the international exhibition and conference centre in London’s Docklands.

Oceanology International is the world’s premier meeting place for the marine science and ocean technology community. Exhibits will include the latest innovations from a huge selection of marine technology suppliers, and the event will also include a conference, visiting vessels and live demonstrations.

BODC stand at OI 2008.©

BODC will have its own stand (L250), in the ‘Next generation UK marine science’ grouping. We will focus on
  • Online data search and delivery
  • Latest projects e.g. GEOTRACES
  • End-to-end data management
Come and visit us and pick up a BODC brochure, a free GEBCO poster (showing the GEBCO world map) and, new for 2010, a BODC badge!

Download a floorplan of the stands at Oi10 Download a
 floorplan of the stands at Oi10 (751 KB)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

BODC request (ASCII) format — your opinion

Data standardisation, in terms of both parameters and file format, is essential in professional data management.

BODC distributes data in a variety of standard formats. One of these, our BODC request (ASCII) format, has been in existence since the early 1980s. It comprises several lines of fixed-length header information (basic metadata) followed by the data cycles (and associated quality control flags) listed one per line.

BODC request (ASCII) format — change required ©

Until now we have refrained from changing this standard, as we were aware that our regular users had developed code for automatic data handling. Increasingly, however, the header design is limiting the information we need to present as well as being out of sync with standards elsewhere.

As part of our continuing commitment to improve our service to the marine community we feel that now is the time to consider a major update to our ASCII data format and we would value your opinion.

Such a change may cause inconvenience so we want to provide you with an opportunity to comment before we embark on an update. We would be pleased to hear your comments. When contacting us, please include information on the software you regularly use with this data format. This will help us tailor the design change to your needs.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

New National Oceanography Centre (NOC) covers marine science from the coast to the deep ocean

A new, national research organisation that will work in partnership with the UK marine research community to deliver integrated marine science and technology from the coast to the deep ocean goes live from 1 April this year.

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) will be formed by bringing together into a single institution NERC-managed activity at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) in Liverpool.

The NOC will work in close partnership with the wider marine science community to create the integrated research capability needed to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. Research priorities will include the oceans' role in climate change, sea level change and the future of the Arctic Ocean.

Integrated research — to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. ©

A major element of the new approach will see the designation of a set of Partners of the NOC — comprising research institutes and key university groups — working collaboratively to support world-class strategic research, technology development and training the scientists of the future. Together with a wider group of Associates, these organisations will form the NOC Association, sharing in the delivery of a community developed strategy for marine science.

The NOC will have a key role in providing national capability to meet the needs of the whole UK marine research community including Royal Research Ships, deep submersibles and advanced ocean technologies. It will also be home to the global mean sea level data archive, the UK’s sea level monitoring system for flood warning and climate change, the national archive of subsea sediment cores and the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC).

How does this affect BODC?

As a national facility for storing and distributing marine data this initiative provides a strong framework to further our commitment to act for the entire community. We provide a resource for science, education, government and industry.

We are working hard to improve our data services and the way in which you can access and download data and information from our web site. For example, there are almost 68,000 data series available online from the National Oceanographic Database (NODB) 'online shopping' facility, with the number typically increasing at about 1,500 a month. This opens the way to the secure delivery of BODC's data holdings via various external data portals.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Open Service Network for Marine Environmental Data (NETMAR)

The British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) is participating in the Open Service Network for Marine Environmental Data (NETMAR) programme, which will help provide a framework for marine environment data portal harmonisation and interoperability across Europe.

The objective is to provide a software toolkit for building data portals in a consistent manner. The toolkit will be developed through the use of emerging web standards, such as chained Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Services.

An example of a service chain ©

The end product will be configurable by user communities interested in developing a data portal and will offer search, download and integration tools. Further processing of data will also be available in order to provide derived products suitable for decision making in the marine environment community.

NETMAR is a European Union Framework 7 funded programme, which will bring together seven organisations from four countries to achieve its goal. It starts in February 2010.

What is our role?

In order to make the resulting portals truly interoperable, NETMAR requires a detailed definition of the services being called and the data requested. This will be achieved through the development of a multi-domain and multilingual ontology of environmental data and information services, to allow searches across human language and scientific domains.

BODC, building on the experience of the Enabling Parameter Discovery and NERC DataGrid (NDG) projects, will be involved in the development of these semantic web ontologies.

This will allow 'smart discovery' when searching for data. For example, searching on the word 'precipitation' or 'précipitation' in a data portal would return all data labelled with, say 'rain', 'pluie', 'snow' or 'neige'.