Linking Big and Small Data Across the Social, Engineering, and Earth Sciences

Monday, 15 December 2014
Robert S Chen, Alex de Sherbinin, Marc A Levy and Robert R Downs, Columbia University, CIESIN, Palisades, NY, United States
The challenges of sustainable development cut across the social, health, ecological, engineering, and Earth sciences, across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, and across the spectrum from basic to applied research and decision making. The rapidly increasing availability of data and information in digital form from a variety of data repositories, networks, and other sources provides new opportunities to link and integrate both traditional data holdings as well as emerging “big data” resources in ways that enable interdisciplinary research and facilitate the use of objective scientific data and information in society. Taking advantage of these opportunities not only requires improved technical and scientific data interoperability across disciplines, scales, and data types, but also concerted efforts to bridge gaps and barriers between key communities, institutions, and networks. Given the long time perspectives required in planning sustainable approaches to development, it is also imperative to address user requirements for long-term data continuity and stewardship by trustworthy repositories. We report here on lessons learned by CIESIN working on a range of sustainable development issues to integrate data across multiple repositories and networks. This includes CIESIN’s roles in developing policy-relevant climate and environmental indicators, soil data for African agriculture, and exposure and risk measures for hazards, disease, and conflict, as well as CIESIN’s participation in a range of national and international initiatives related both to sustainable development and to open data access, interoperability, and stewardship.