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For over 20 years, ESIP meetings have brought together the most innovative thinkers and leaders around Earth science data, thus forming a community dedicated to making Earth science data more discoverable, accessible and useful to researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and the public. The theme of this year’s meeting is "Data for All People: From Generation to Use and Understanding."

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Tuesday, January 18 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Towards an Earth and Space Sciences Knowledge Commons

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Our technological and physical expansion into space exemplifies the growing interconnections between Earth and the space environment. The inseparability of the space environment from Earth and life on it reveals cracks and inadequacies in our data and knowledge infrastructure to integrate the different domains. The key to a flourishing community of Earth and space research is in improved knowledge systems (ways of representing our information).

The problem of our outdated data systems is not one of information, but of access. Datasets, disciplines, people, projects, institutions are all siloed, resulting in a lack of awareness and usability across silos that make reuse and collective progress impossible. Yet our increasing awareness of complexity has revealed that the distinctions between the silos are artificial, with each new bit of information further revealing the interconnectedness that pervades our world. As John Muir observed, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

We will highlight important active efforts toward improved knowledge representation systems across the Earth and Space Sciences, emphasizing the importance of thinking in graphs/networks, and spark a discussion toward a framework to address the asymmetries: a knowledge commons [McGranaghan et al., 2021].

A knowledge commons is a combination of intelligent information representation and the openness, governance, and trust required to create a participatory ecosystem whereby the whole community maintains and evolves this shared information space. A knowledge commons is predicated on a central movement from a data society to a knowledge and wisdom society.

A knowledge commons is a core ‘technology’ (defined to include both hardware/software and cultural technologies) of the solution for a more inclusive, open, and equitable space community. In this participatory ecosystem, the whole community maintains and evolves the shared space. We believe that the path towards creating this commons lies in an embrace of radical collaboration, new scales of interaction, and the corresponding changes (in thinking, in community structure, and in support) that must accompany this movement.

A group that cuts across NASA, the American Geophysical Union, the MIT Knowledge Futures Group, industry, and academia have been actively exploring the concept of an Earth and Space Data Knowledge Commons, a collection of software and systems for improved information representation of space data and the platform and governance to make them collaborative, accessible, and equitable. That group is animated to converge various pockets of progress across the community in discussion to shape the idea of a knowledge commons, to feature and connect active projects that will help emerge the dimensions of the data that need to be captured, and to cultivate a community of practice to advance the concept.

McGranaghan, R., Klein, S. J., Cameron, A., Young, E., Schonfeld, S., Higginson, A., … Thompson, B. (2021). The need for a Space Data Knowledge Commons. Structuring Collective Knowledge. Retrieved from https://knowledgestructure.pubpub.org/pub/space-knowledge-commons

*Relationship to the theme of “Data for All People: From Data Generation to Data Use and Understanding:"*
We believe that there is increasing awareness for knowledge graphs, yet a lack of understanding for how to build them and, perhaps more importantly, how to link them into knowledge networks and to address the cultural components (e.g., trust and governance) for how to help these systems flourish. The concept of the knowledge commons goes beyond the technological needs of linking data to understand how people interact with the data, share and collectively manage the resource, and use the technology to interact with one another. It is timely to the focus on data for people that will guide the ESIP 2022 Winter Meeting.

Session Notes

Session Recording


Agnes Cameron

Knowledge Futures Group
avatar for Caroline Coward

Caroline Coward

Library Group Supervisor, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
avatar for Chris Erdmann

Chris Erdmann

Assistant Director, Data Stewardship, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
avatar for SJ Klein

SJ Klein

Interlacer, the Underlay Project
avatar for Ryan McGranaghan

Ryan McGranaghan

Data Scientist/Aerospace Engineering Scientist, ASTRA LLC
Space scientist, engineer, data scientist, designer, podcast host. Observer of beauty in liminal spaces. I believe in being led around by your curiosity.

Tuesday January 18, 2022 4:00pm - 5:30pm EST
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