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Data sharing and collaboration in the Arctic.

University of Calgary, Cybera

Northern Canada’s peoples, wildlife, and unique terrain are part of our shared heritage. Research in Arctic biodiversity, natural resources, and climate can preserve the culture and improve the lives of those that live there. However, the remoteness and climate that make the Arctic special, also make its properties very challenging to measure and monitor. Furthermore, rapid change is impacting Arctic dwellers today, making timely research more crucial than ever.

Collecting data in Canada’s North is challenging because of extreme weather conditions, vast spaces, and costly transportation. Considerable information exists but the data sets — which can be everything from satellite reports to personal photographs of the landscape — are not linked and therefore not easily accessed or shared.

As a result, scientists can spend 80 per cent of their time finding data and only 20 per cent doing actual research. Indeed, data sharing and interoperability are two of the most pressing challenges in Arctic research.

ArcticConnect is an innovative approach to data management and accessibility that allows residents, the research community, the private sector, and government agencies to submit and access a variety of types of information online.

Innovative contributions and accessibility

To rectify this situation, researchers at the University of Calgary and the Arctic Institute of North America have launched ArcticConnect, an online platform designed to improve the monitoring of Canada’s North and to provide readily accessible information on changing conditions. It’s an innovative approach to data management and accessibility that allows residents, the research community, the private sector, and government agencies to submit and access a variety of types of information online. All data is linked to a web-based map that uses Arctic-specific map projections, reducing the extreme distortions of the Arctic that are prevalent in mapping systems designed for temperate latitudes.

ArcticConnect collects data from temperature and dewpoint sensors at research stations throughout the Arctic Circle — including those that provide near-real time data — for visualization, information sharing, and collaborative analysis. It includes a biodiversity database that enables researchers and residents to contribute observations on Arctic animal species for the purpose of monitoring, management, and education. The platform also includes geo-mapped images of publications, research reports, photos, field notes, public commentary, and even artwork.

Important global initiative

ArcticConnect not only makes it easier for scientists to manage and access information worldwide about changing conditions in the Arctic but also helps governments when making policy decisions and public agencies when responding to emergency situations. Furthermore, it empowers individuals to contribute to an important global initiative through its crowd-sourcing approach to data gathering, referred to as “citizen sensing”.

Through its Arctic Scholar component, ArcticConnect enables researchers, educators, interested private sector entities, government agencies, and the general public to access and share Arctic data and information contained in assorted formats including publications, research licenses, photo archives, field notes, and project metadata from Arctic field stations.  ArcticConnect’s Arctic Sensor Web component enables research stations around the pan-Arctic region to connect their sensors, including those that provide near-real time data, to a central cloud service for visualization, information sharing, and collaborative analysis. 

Cycle of software reuse

ArcticConnect builds upon on earlier CANARIE-supported initiative, the GeoCENS Research Platform. In addition to GeoCENS and the ArcticConnect Platform, three new Services have been contributed back to the CANARIE Software Registry for re-use by other researchers; a JavaScript library (Javascript for projected Arctic Web Maps) for developers to integrate Arctic-focused maps into the developer’s own web platform, the Biodiversity Sightings Management Service for collecting wildlife sightings from mobile clients, and a tile server (Multi-Projection Web Mapping Service for Arctic Regions) that provides map tiles with no Arctic region distortion.

Funding for the development of ArcticConnect was provided
through CANARIE’s Research Software Program.

Additional Resources

Technical specifications and ArcticConnect Fact Sheet
ArcticConnect website