The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced a $2.1 million grant to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to launch a data task force that will support synthesis research related to the Alaskan salmon fishery.
In contrast to the mining of Big Data, synthesis research recognizes the value of small, information-rich datasets generated by scientists around the world. Collecting, combining, and "wrangling" these many discrete data sets for synthesis presents a daunting challenge, however. The grant from the Moore Foundation will support data collection for and management of the State of Alaska's newly launched Salmon and People (SASAP) synthesis working groups.
The SASAP project will examine issues ranging from salmon distribution and habitat to the role of salmon in subsistence traditions, with SASAP researchers working with the entire salmon stakeholder community to assess the current state of and plan for the sustainability of the salmon fishery and the Alaskans who rely on it. In the process, the task force hopes to assess the efficacy of the synthesis research approach in general and provide an example of a more efficient, successful approach to data collection, management, and curation for synthesis projects.
"Combining heterogeneous data from many sources presents significant technical difficulties, not to mention the cultural hurdles associated with getting data providers to hand over their data," said Carly Strasser, science program officer at the Moore Foundation. "NCEAS's twenty-one years of leadership in synthesis science, cutting-edge informatics approaches, and well-regarded data management tools will help to ensure the data task force's success in overcoming these barriers."