Looking for marine data?
Figure 1. Image of MEDIN Data Discovery Portal Geographcal search feature.
Marine data in the UK are collected and archived by over 100 organisations, meaning knowing ‘where’ and ‘how to’ access these data for reuse can be confusing and time consuming to say the least. The principle aid in MEDIN’s artillery to achieve its vision of ensuring data are “measured once, used many times”, is the MEDIN Data Discovery Portal.
The portal, located on the MEDIN website, is designed to provide users with a single, authoritative place to find out about marine data from different UK organisations across many marine areas, ranging from marine archaeology to zooplankton.
The portal first went live in June 2010 with just under 800 metadata records obtained from the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), the British Geological Survey (BGS) and The Archive for Marine Species and Habitats Data (DASSH). In 2014 the portal now contains close to 7000 records from over 70 different organisations. Each record describes the makeup and location of data from across the spectrum of UK marine subject areas and disciplines, including bathymetry, oceanography, species and habitat, fisheries, marine archaeology, geology and even data collection by UK organisations in non-UK waters.
Figure 2. Example of an advanced search of the MEDIN Data Discovery Portal
The portal provides the user with an uncluttered interface from which to conduct their search. Offering options to make each search as simple or as detailed as they choose; the portal presents the user with tools ranging from a ‘Free text search’ of the entire catalogue to a ‘Data range’ or ‘Geographical search’ with advanced search functionality embedded into each heading. These advanced search features allow the expert marine user to carry out specific target searches on parameters, data holders, data format and specific sea areas.
At each stage of the search the portal allows for the exportation of information. The search results page can be downloaded as a KML file or a CSV file and once a specific dataset is chosen a range of download features become available again including a KML and CSV file but also an XML file in MEDIN, Dublin Core and GCMD DIF formats.
The portal also contains useful features such as having an OpenSearch functionality enabling users to search the portal directly from their browsers. It also creates a unique URL for the results page of a search, allowing the user to bookmark, store or easily share their search. There is even a ‘light version’ to allow users to more easily access the portal from their mobiles or any limited browsers.
Most importantly, the MEDIN portal provides the user with the information that is needed to actually get hold of the data. Much of the data is available online, which is indicated by a green icon that is visible upon selecting a dataset. If the green icon is present, the URL to the data can be found under ‘Resource locator’ further down the page. If the icon is red, the data can still be easily accessed but in this case you should use the contact email/telephone details under ‘Responsible party’.
The team are always looking to receive suggestions and feedback on how to take the portals development forward so if you have any suggestions please get in touch through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the feedback box on the portal page.
Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) Coordinator Appointed
Dr Clare Postlethwaite was appointed MEDIN coordinator on 22nd September 2014.
Clare has been part of the marine science community for the past 14 years, gaining an MSc and then a PhD in Oceanography from the University of Southampton.
During this time she became familiar with some of the challenges associated with using other people’s data, as well as the time and cost associated with gathering and processing oceanographic data. She subsequently worked for the Natural Environment Research Council as an ocean/ice modeller, which required her to manage and manipulate very large datasets. Clare joined the MEDIN Core Team in 2012, where she was responsible for metadata and data standards. She enjoys the opportunity MEDIN offers her to work with a wide section of the UK marine community.
Clare says “I am delighted to be appointed MEDIN Coordinator. I believe the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network has a solid structure in place. I want to help build on that structure to make it easy to share marine data.
Marine data is expensive to collect, so it makes perfect commercial sense to reuse data wherever possible. It also makes sense scientifically; if we want to understand how our marine environment is changing, we need to be able to compare data today with data collected five, ten or fifty years ago. However, reusing data is only practical and will only become commonplace if we have confidence in the data we want to use. MEDIN provides a mechanism for doing this via its network of accredited Data Archive Centres and guidance on data management best practice. Well documented and maintained data should have a longevity that will outlast the people that collect it.”
What is EMODnet?
The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) is a long term marine data initiative from the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) underpinning its Marine Knowledge 2020 strategy. EMODnet operates through a consortium of organisations assembling European marine data, data products and metadata from diverse sources in a uniform way. The main purpose of EMODnet is to unlock fragmented and hidden marine data resources and to make these available to individuals and organisations (public and private), and to facilitate investment in sustainable coastal and offshore activities through improved access to quality-assured, standardised and harmonised marine data which are interoperable and free of restrictions on use.
EMODnet has a core set of principles that underpin the development of its services. Many of these are very similar to those under which MEDIN operates: They include:
- Collect data once and use it many times;
- Develop data standards across disciplines as well as within them;
- Process and validate data at different scales: regional, basin and pan-European;
- Sustainable funding at a European level to maximise benefit from the efforts of individual Member States;
- Build on existing efforts where data communities have already organised themselves;
- Put the user first when developing priorities and taking decisions;
- Accompany data with clear statements on ownership, accuracy and precision.
Figure 3. Example EMODnet thematic data products
How does EMODnet work?
The EMODnet data infrastructure is being developed through a stepwise approach in three major phases. Following a successful pilot phase, EMODnet is now in the second phase of development with seven sub-portals in operation providing access to marine data from the following themes: bathymetry, geology, physics, chemistry, biology, seabed habitats and human activities. EMODnet development is a dynamic process so new data, products and functionality are added regularly while portals are continuously improved to make the service more fit for purpose and user friendly with the help of users and stakeholders. Further information for potential contributors as either data provider or user is available from the EMODnet Central Portal (www.emodnet.eu) or the Secretariat (info@EMODnet.eu).
Are the UK and MEDIN involved?
Over 100 organisations are directly involved in the EMODnet programme, including 11 from the UK; new contributors are welcome. UK organisations are involved in all of the thematic portals and provide data both through the MEDIN DACs (e.g. BGS, BODC, UKHO), from programmes like MERMAN and directly or indirectly through many other UK organisations (e.g. SAHFOS, JNCC, Cefas, OceanWise, NOC).
What is the North Sea Checkpoint?
In addition to the thematic data portals, two basin checkpoint projects are underway with more to follow. One of these is for the North Sea; coordinated by HR Wallingford. The purpose of the checkpoints is to audit the value of marine data services to solve a suite of commercial and policy challenges. They will identify whether the present observation infrastructure is the most effective possible, and whether it meets the needs of public or private users.