Sustainability science is a new and growing area of research that focuses on interactions between nature and human activities. These interactions are complex, and knowledge about them is important for guiding how government, industry, and individuals should plan for and respond to environmental and social change. Understanding fundamental principles for sustainable societies requires access to large amounts of data on natural phenomena, human behavior, and economics.
Currently, these data are difficult to find, obtain, and use because people from disciplines across the natural and social sciences collect, describe and store their data in many different ways. These data could have significant value if it was possible to connect data collectors with potential users of data and if it was easy for individuals to search for, aggregate, and maintain valuable data for the long term. To address these problems, the University of Michigan and its partners at Indiana University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Illinois will work with sustainability scientists to develop a system for managing and sharing their data.
SEAD (Sustainable Environment–Actionable Data) will employ social networking technologies similar to those used on popular sites such as YouTube and Flickr to provide a straightforward way for sustainability science researchers to contribute data, manage them for their own use, and share them with others. As people use data available in SEAD, they can improve them by reviewing and commenting on them, combining them with other data, and then sharing the integrated data back through SEAD.
The SEAD team will work closely with the community of sustainability scientists to evolve this data-sharing model. In the first two years of the project, SEAD will collaborate with scientists studying sustainable land use, water quality, urban planning and redevelopment, and agriculture in the Upper Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River Basin. Through this collaboration, SEAD will demonstrate that it is possible to take a variety of technologies and develop a system that helps researchers manage their data and motivates them to share data and information about their data with others.
People depend on the environment. Natural systems provide food, shelter, and energy and help to purify water, moderate flooding, and absorb pollutants. Human activities affect the environment, and natural systems also shape the way people live. For example, income influences where people choose to live, which in turn affects how land is used in a particular area. In order to sustain themselves, people must balance their development needs with the limits of the Earth’s systems.
SEAD will help scientists, planners, policy makers, environmental organizations, and industry to find and use environmental, social and economic data that is essential for making sound decisions and wise investments in sustainable communities, practices, and technologies.
Collaborators Outside SI:
James Myers, Co-Principal Investigator: Professor of Computer Science and Director of Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Praveen Kumar, Co-Principal Investigator: Colonel Harry F. and Frankie M. Lovell Endowed Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Beth Plale, Co-Principal Investigator: Professor of Computer Science and Director of Data to Insight Center of Pervasive Technologies at Indiana University
George Alter, Senior Personnel: Professor of History and Director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at UM
Bryan Beecher, Senior Personnel: Director of Computing and Network Services, Inter-university Consortium for Social and Political Research (ICPSR) at UM
Katy Borner, Senior Personnel: Victor H. Yngve Professor of Information Science at Indiana University
Robert McDonald, Senior Personnel: Associate Dean for Library Technologies at Indiana University
Supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. OCI 0940824.