Sustainable Environment through Actionable Data (SEAD)

In the third year of this project, the research team led by Principal Investigator Margaret Hedstrom has been working closely with a team of sustainability scientists to develop a system that will allow them to manage and share their data.

Currently, these data can be 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. Research from single investigators or small teams is not often archived for use by future generations, making it unlikely anyone will find it or be able to use it.

Start date: 10/1/2011
End date: 9/30/2016

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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. 

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 have developed an infrastructure with sustainability scientists for managing and sharing their data and long-term preservation and access to that data. 

For scientists, the prototype offers social network capabilities related to scientific data and publication expertise, and allows them to connect in ways that social media networks would. The project’s infrastructure is designed to find ways to pull together data, capabilities, interests and enthusiasm and allow it all to be sustained by others in the long-term archiving business, giving the project enduring value.

The SEAD (Sustainable Environment–Actionable Data) project employs 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 is working closely with the community of sustainability scientists to evolve this data-sharing model. In the first two years of the project, SEAD has collaborated 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.

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. 

For more information, please visit the SEAD project website here

To get Margaret Hedstrom's synopsis of the project, please view her YouTube interview here.


DataNet Full Proposal: Sustainable Environment through Actionable Data (SEAD), National Science Foundation: $8,000,000


The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"