Some of you may have heard me talk about or reference ‘AGU’ from time to time, and when I do, it’s almost always met with blank stares, or questions of ‘What’s that?’ It’s time to partially answer that question, and give at least one reason I talk about the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Turns out that AGU and RDA complement each other’s work, so I thought I share a bit about the organization, where I see synergies, and why it’s important to talk about other organizations. [Full disclosure – I’ve been an AGU member for quite awhile, have served on their Meetings Committee, and regularly attend their annual meeting to present research and, among other things, help judge student posters.]
The American Geophysical Union was established in 1919 by the National Research Council, and became an independent entity in 1972. AGU is a scientific organization that concentrates on the Earth and Space sciences, and supports excellence in peer-reviewed research. Organizationally, this group of over 35,000 members covers geophysical disciplines from Atmospheric and Space Electricity to Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology. Supporting work includes producing publications, sponsoring special research-focused conferences, Congressional outreach, student support, and a host of other activities – all designed to share and disseminate the latest geoscience research.
I should stop here and say that there are so many people who are members of both RDA and AGU that I know I will leave someone out, and so won’t even try to find a complete list. I will, however, call attention to some who have made key contributions over the years, as well as to the coming annual meeting.
To my mind, some of the most obvious complementarities are in the area of AGU’s Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI). Citing from their web page, ESSI “…. Is concerned with issues of data management and analysis, large-scale computational experimentation and modeling, and hardware and software infrastructure needs, which ultimately provide the capability to change data systems into knowledge systems that support the range of Earth and space science interests.” One of RDA’s current TAB members, Dr. Peter Fox, was instrumental in creating ESSI. Such is the naturally strong connection between ESSI and RDA that almost every US RDA member with a connection to the Earth or space sciences has, at one time or another, been involved with ESSI, including our own Secretary General, Mark Parsons. With ESSI’s focus on infrastructure elements, RDA’s outputs may have a good path to adoption.
All of the other disciplines within AGU also present possible linkages to RDA, if gaps in their data sharing practices are identified and brought to RDA for discussion. For example, in the Ocean Sciences section, researchers are concerned with not only the oceans, but also the intersections of oceans with land and air. Within RDA, the Marine Data Harmonization Interest Group is looking into a common global framework for managing marine data. There are already members in common between the two groups, and it would be a matter of focusing the discussions to even more fully engage AGU.
Through the work of a few people who belong to both organizations, a RDA is slowly becoming more visible within AGU. At the annual scientific meeting in December in the United States, RDA and RDA/US will be featured in a set of talks illustrating several national and international cooperative efforts, including RDA, Earth Cube, and ESIP. The sessions are called “Collaborations and Partnerships in Informatics: Trusted International and National Communities Advancing Open Earth and Space Science Informatics Infrastructures.” In addition, RDA will be the topic of a talk later in the week in a session called “An Interoperability Challenge for the Geosciences.” Special thanks goes to Dr. Lesley Wyborn and Dr. Jay Pearlman, respectively, for organizing these sessions. If you are one of the many RDA people involved with AGU, and are attending the Fall meeting (December 14 – 18, 2015 in San Francisco, California), I urge you to come to these sessions to see partnerships in action. All information about AGU is available at agu.org.
So why do I talk about AGU? Because it is a scientific organization to which I belong that could benefit from knowing more about RDA, and RDA could benefit from additional expertise in the AGU community. To the extent that there are members in common, that is already happening, and those interactions will continue to grow. Such partnerships and outreach activities can and should happen with any organization to which any of us belong. The key is each and every one of us – we are the link between RDA and any other organization, and we can connect the dots from the inside, as it were, better than anyone else.
If you are part of an organization that shares research data, consider giving a talk at their next annual meeting, and include RDA as a topic. If you have already done so, consider sharing the talk with the RDA community. If you have stories like this, of partnerships that leverage your role in RDA and another organization, share those stories with us in a blog post. AGU is only one of many scientific organizations out there with strong ties to the mission of RDA – let’s continue our partnership-building one conversation at a time!