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DataONE portal helps researchers comb through online data


Easier access to data through a new search software from DataONE promises to aid data-intensive research projects such as eBird, which combined multiple data layers to make predictions about bird migration patterns. The map shows the predicted occurrence of the eastern bluebird in August 2008. Additional animated maps are available at http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/occurrence-maps/.

New software released by DataONE (Data Observation Network for Earth) will help researchers exploring dataintensive environmental topics such as climate change or infectious diseases find the information they need in massive online datasets.

The overwhelming volume of data available in diverse forms—from old field notes to current satellite readings—
makes it hard for researchers to find the information they need to address complex environmental questions. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, DataONE is a collaboration of research institutions addressing the need to organize and make available “vast amounts of highly diverse and interrelated but often incompatible scientific data.”

DataONE offers a one-stop search engine called “One-Mercury” that queries data collections worldwide for relevant
information on earth science topics. Environmental Sciences Division’s Robert Cook and Giri Palanisamy and Computer Science and Mathematics Division’s John Cobb and Line Pouchard are part of the team that developed the new tools; it also includes researchers from the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences and other partners. A key part of the new software is an advanced search engine developed by ORNL team members.

"This search system enables researchers to discover, access, and explore data that exist at many different repositories around the Internet," Robert said. Previously there was no “federation” of the various data centers that would allow a user to search all the resources from one point, he said.

A valuable feature of the DataONE search tool is that it allows users to easily integrate information from previously
incompatible data sets. A DataONE working group, for example, combined a database of amateur bird sightings with layers of environmental data for land use, weather, and vegetation to refine predictions about bird migration patterns.

"The whole process of making data available, and making the data so it could be readily integrated, really benefited the bird ecologists," Cobb said. The tool is freely available to the public at https://cn.dataone.org/onemercury/.

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