Articles | Volume 8
06 Jun 2006
06 Jun 2006

A new generation of cyberinfrastructure and data services for earth system science education and research

M. K. Ramamurthy

Abstract. A revolution is underway in the role played by cyberinfrastructure and modern data services in the conduct of research and education. We live in an era of an unprecedented data volume from diverse sources, multidisciplinary analysis and synthesis, and active, learner-centered education emphasis. Complex environmental problems such as global change and water cycle transcend disciplinary and geographic boundaries, and their solution requires integrated earth system science approaches. Contemporary education strategies recommend adopting an Earth system science approach for teaching the geosciences, employing pedagogical techniques such as enquiry-based learning. The resulting transformation in geoscience education and research creates new opportunities for advancement and poses many challenges. The success of the scientific enterprise depends heavily on the availability of a state-of-the-art, robust, and flexible cyberinfrastructure, and on the timely access to quality data, products, and tools to process, manage, analyze, integrate, publish, and visualize those data.

Concomittantly, rapid advances in computing, communication, and information technologies have revolutionized the provision and use of data, tools and services. The profound consequences of Moore's Law and the explosive growth of the Internet are well known. On the other hand, how other technological trends have shaped the development of data services is less well understood. For example, the advent of digital libraries, web services, open standards and protocols have been important factors in shaping a new generation of cyberinfrastructure for solving key scientific and educational problems.

This paper presents a broad overview of these issues, along with a survey of key information technology trends, and discuses how those trends are enabling new approaches to applying data services for solving geoscientific problems.