NERC Environmental Data Service 2023-2028

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: National Centre for Atmospheric Science


Environmental science, and in particular the data which underpins it, support a wide range of stakeholder requirements and use cases. For over 40 years, the implementation of NERC's data management policy has fallen largely on its five discipline-specific Environmental Data Centres (EDCs): the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC), the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA), the Environmental Information Data Centre (EIDC), the National Geoscience Data Centre (NDGC) and the UK Polar Data Centre (PDC). These EDCs are each individually world-class centres of excellence in research data management and have broad remits within their discipline-specific areas which extend far beyond service to NERC's own science community. Through its support for the EDCs, NERC facilitates and underpins wide-ranging data-centric activities and impact, some of which is contractual or statutory. The collection, management and exploitation of this data is therefore an integral part of modern environmental science.

Many environmental science problems increasingly require research and application that transcends, combines or spans traditional disciplinary boundaries. Ensuring access to environmental data for multi disciplinary use is pivotal to solving such complex problems. Consequently, in 2018, NERC commissioned the creation of the Environmental Data Service (EDS) to provide coordinated research data management across its five EDCs. Over the past five years, the EDS has developed and implemented a range of integrated services which provide a focal point for scientific data and information spanning all environmental science domains: atmosphere and climate, earth observation, polar and cryosphere, marine, terrestrial and freshwater, geoscience, solar and space physics.

Through the EDS, the EDCs have pooled their individual discipline specific expertise to provide an integrated shared service which operates across all domains to ensure that environmental data are managed securely for the long-term, and are accessible, and suitable for reuse. The foundational years of the EDS began a journey to provide leadership in the provision of environmental data for the benefit of UK and global society. This includes integration activities involving the development and use of common policies and procedures, and sharing of best practice, software tools and expertise for research data management. This is leading to increased harmonisation between NERC's EDCs and the introduction of some new services (such as DataLabs) which are truly cross-disciplinary. Working closely with NERC and a wide range of stakeholders, the EDS has developed a vision for a federated service which spans the full spectrum from the most focused and discipline-specific applications requiring great depth of expertise, to a service without boundaries, meeting environmental data requirements wherever they may arise.

With the EDS now established, this proposal directly addresses the development and operation of the EDS, funded through the 2023-2028 commissioning period. Our five year plan sets out a vision for a transition to a single, federated EDS within which services and policies are developed and implemented at the most appropriate level. User needs will drive this development which will lead to increasing visibility of the EDS and improved access of environmental science data. Furthermore, the development of new data applications, tools and services will directly support the NERC Digital Strategy.


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