GeoWorld June 2012

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GIS and the Emerging Open Science: The Road Taken, the Road Still Beckoning THE "G" IN GIS S hortly after my last column on Big Data came online in mid-March (see "Big Data in a Small and Divided World: Implications for GIS and Geography," GeoWorld, March 2012, page 12), the Obama White House announced multiple new federal initiatives that specifically target the challenges created by the Big Data deluge ( default/files/microsites/ostp/big_data_ press_release.pdf). Everyone I speak to in the geospatial BY DANIEL SUI community is absolutely thrilled by these new initiatives, as they believe these new programs can potentially lead to advances in geospatial science and technology. As an academic researcher, I've been particularly interested in how the Big Data deluge is changing the way we do science. The push for a new paradigm under the general umbrella of "open science" deserves attention. As reflected in the presentations made during the recent Open Science Summit (opensciencesummit. com), exciting advances are being made every day in diverse scientific fields, ranging from mathematics (the Polymath Project), astronomy (Galaxy Zoo, Sloan Digital Sky Survey) and geology (the OneGeology project) to environmental science (Water Keeper, Global Community Monitoring), health and medicine (the HapMap Project, CURE Together). Efforts devoted to open science quickly are flesh- Daniel Sui is distinguished professor and chair of geography at The Ohio State University; e-mail: 12 ing out details of emerging data-intensive inquiries (otherwise known as the fourth paradigm, discussed in my March column). Despite diverse interpretations of the precise meaning of open science (e.g., open source, open data, open access, open notebook or networked science), it can safely be claimed that the emerging paradigm includes the following elements (Gezelter, 2009): in methods of data collection, observation and experiments. of scientific data to facilitate reproducibility. of scientific communication and publication. GEO W ORLD / JUNE 2O12 involving experts and amateurs/citizens using Web-based tools. Although Big Data is creating a new terra incognita, maybe even too large to know (Weinberger, 2012), Michael Nielsen (2012) argues that these four basic principles of open science may serve to best guide new scientific discovery. And such signposts are needed; as the stream of geospatial data rapidly merges with the Big Data deluge and open science is promoted as the "Noah's Ark" in which everyone is to survive the current information flood, it's only natural to think strategically about what actions those in the geospatial community should take in the near future to position themselves to play a leading role in the era of Big Data and open science. Geospatial Leading the Way For the record, those in the geospatial community should be proud of their steady efforts during the last 20 years. They have been working on Big Data in the spirit of open science long before it became the "talk of the town." As a result, the geospatial community is well positioned to ride the current wave of open science because of its collective efforts in promoting data sharing, open-source software devel- opment and participatory sensing/mapping (citizens as sensors). For example, the Open Geospatial Consortium ( has been a pioneer in develop- ing open standards to facilitate interoperability of geospatial data across platforms. Also notable, the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) Conference has, since 2006, been serving as the primary forum to promote the development of free and open-source software ( According to Steiniger and Hunter (2012), there's now a plethora of free and open software tools, ranging from Web map servers for managing data and images (,, Web GIS servers for data processing (, zooproject. org), and data-storage software/spatial database

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