From Observational Data to Information (OD2I) IG Charter

27 Dec 2017

From Observational Data to Information (OD2I) IG Charter

At the GEO-XIV Plenary, GEO Secretariat Director Barbara Ryan stated that the "link from data provider research infrastructures to users will become more important" [1]. This statement opens several interesting questions. Who are the users? What data are provided by research infrastructures (RIs)? What kind of links are there between data provider RIs and users? How do RIs provide the data needed by users? Do users produce data? Are such derived data acquired by RIs, further curated, published, processed and used?

 

Users are of different kinds, ranging from individual researchers and research communities to industry, decision makers and the general public. Data are of different kinds as well, ranging from primary observational, experimental, or computational data to data derived in numerous activities performed by users along contextualized value chains. Data provided by RIs can be primary or derived. While users consume data provided by RIs, many groups of users surely also produce data. Such derived data should be acquired by infrastructures.

 

In this complex landscape, there is an important constant across infrastructures and domains that lies at the core of the OD2I IG. Along value chains, primary data are interpreted for their meaning in determinate contexts of scientific, industrial, or broadly societal relevance. Within the context of a particular value chain, primary data are uninterpreted. In contrast, meaningful data resulting from data interpretation are information, interpreted data. Primary data thus evolve to become contextually meaningful information further used for both scientific and nonscientific purposes.

 

With primary focus on (i.e., not exclusively for) observational data and environmental research infrastructures, the OD2I IG studies this constant. Building on collected use cases and existing conceptual frameworks, the OD2I IG advances understanding for how observational data evolve to information, ultimately integrated into bodies of knowledge about natural and human worlds.

 

In other words, the OD2I IG studies and advances understanding of the relatively unexplored interface between users and infrastructures in the data use phase of the research data lifecycle. It studies and models the roles of, and interactions among, human and computer agents; the data and information consumed and produced by agents in this phase; the performed activities and the systems supporting their execution.

 

The notion that primary data evolve to information (and knowledge) is increasingly common. Research infrastructures emphasize there is knowledge to gain through observation [2]. Earth observation satellites "provide critical information for global food security" [3]. The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) is envisioned as an environment that enables turning ever increasing amounts of data "into knowledge as renewable, sustainable fuel for innovation in turn to meet global challenges" [4]. At the 2016 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Rebecca Moore (Google) envisioned the possibility of monitoring a changing planet and "generating precise, actionable information and knowledge".

 

Following a proposal by members of the OD2I IG that suggests to adopt the Floridi framework [5, 6] with the notion of data interpretation borrowed from Aamodt and Nygård [7], the OD2I IG considers technical aspects of (semantic) information representation in systems and the management of explicit and formal semantics. Connecting data to users relies on systems capable of acquiring, curating and processing the meaning of data generated by users along value chains. A critical aspect is the mechanism for representing information in ways suitable for both machine-to-machine interaction and for presentation to and use by users. Since the ability to exploit any given information demands a specific knowledge on the part of the user, presentations need to consider both user type and intended purpose. Data provide a basis for building information that will lead to decision making. The transition from data to information involves processes of interpretation, in which meaning is attached to data. It is information, and its use against a background of prior knowledge that provides sufficient understanding to allow consequences of decisions to be foreseen.

 

The OD2I IG aligns to the mission and vision of RDA through the specific concern of socio-technical support for the extraction of information from primary observational data, activities that are primarily carried out by research communities as they make use of data in their everyday work. The OD2I IG will add value by working to realize information and knowledge-based systems layered above the current data systems, resulting in improved usability of data as information by both humans and machines. Of specific  emphasis is the outcome that machines are enabled in automated processing of information. The OD2I IG is committed to make a difference in this regard.

 

Please see the attached From Observational Data to Information Charter Statement for additional information on the Interest Group plans.

 

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