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. This system will enable researchers to actively and socially curate and share their own data.
Similar to popular social networking technologies, SEAD (Sustainable Environment – Actionable Data) will enable researchers to contribute data, manage them for their own use, and share them with others. At the same time, the SEAD data repository will help domain scientists, planners, policy makers, environmental organizations, and industry, locate and utilize data essential for making sound decisions and wise investments in sustainable communities, practices, and technologies. 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. Lastly, the SEAD repository will make it easy for scientists to share data and findings from research with others. Information to help a scientist use a particular dataset might come from an article published by the person who originally collected the data, through a conversation with the original data collector, or from researchers who have used the data and commented on them. Connections to all these sources of information will be made through SEAD.
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