Implementing interactive decision support: A case for combining cyberinfrastructure, data fusion, and social process to mobilize scientific knowledge in sustainability problems

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Suzanne A Pierce, University of Texas at Austin, Environmental Sciences Institute, Jackson School of Geosciences, Austin, TX, United States
Geosciences are becoming increasingly data intensive, particularly in relation to sustainability problems, which are multi-dimensional, weakly structured and characterized by high levels of uncertainty. In the case of complex resource management problems, the challenge is to extract meaningful information from data and make sense of it. Simultaneously, scientific knowledge alone is insufficient to change practice. Creating tools, and group decision support processes for end users to interact with data are key challenges to transforming science-based information into actionable knowledge.

The ENCOMPASS project began as a multi-year case study in the Atacama Desert of Chile to design and implement a knowledge transfer model for energy-water-mining conflicts in the region. ENCOMPASS combines the use of cyberinfrastructure (CI), automated data collection, interactive interfaces for dynamic decision support, and participatory modelling to support social learning.

A pilot version of the ENCOMPASS CI uses open source systems and serves as a structure to integrate and store multiple forms of data and knowledge, such as DEM, meteorological, water quality, geomicrobiological, energy demand, and groundwater models. In the case study, informatics and data fusion needs related to scientific uncertainty around deep groundwater flowpaths and energy-water connections. Users may upload data from field sites with handheld devices or desktops. Once uploaded, data assets are accessible for a variety of uses.

To address multi-attributed decision problems in the Atacama region a standalone application with touch-enabled interfaces was created to improve real-time interactions with datasets by groups. The tool was used to merge datasets from the ENCOMPASS CI to support exploration among alternatives and build shared understanding among stakeholders.

To date, the project has increased technical capacity among stakeholders, resulted in the creation of both for-profit and non-profit entities, enabled cross-sector collaboration with mining-indigenous stakeholders, and produced an interactive application for group decision support. ENCOMPASS leverages advances in computational tools to deliver data and models for group decision support applied to sustainability science problems.