Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Report and Photos from SEN at CSDMS 2017

SEN (the Sediment Experimentalist Network) is an EarthCube Research Coordination Network (RCN) working to build a network of people, labs, tools, and information to make experimental geomorphology data more accessible and reusable. Our work is oriented around addressing grand challenge scientific goals, which include understanding variability in landscape evolution and sediment deposition processes, pursuing reproducibility of sediment experiments across laboratories, and relating scales of experiments to numerical models and natural systems.

SEN acts as a liaison between Earth-surface experimentalists and other communities of interest. Over the last few years, CSDMS and its network of Earth-surface modelers have emerged as natural partners in SEN efforts to document and disseminate datasets from sediment experiments. CSDMS modelers are interested in using experimentalist-generated data to parameterize and validate models; conversely, SEN experimentalists are interested in using Earth-surface models to inform and interpret observations from the laboratory.

To facilitate CSDMS-SEN collaborations and to build our respective networks of scientists, SEN served as co-sponsor for the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting, for a second consecutive year. As co-sponsor, SEN served two primary roles: (1) seeking out and funding experimentalist participants for the CSDMS meeting, and (2) hosting a clinic on the SEN Knowledge Base (SEN-KB), a resource for documentation and discovery of experimental equipment, methods, and datasets.

In total, SEN supported the registration and travel costs for 19 participants at the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting, including 3 of the SEN project leaders: Leslie Hsu (USGS), Raleigh Martin (UCLA), and Kim Miller (U Wyoming). Of these sponsored participants, all but one were early-career graduate students, postdocs, researchers, faculty, or professionals. As a condition for SEN support, all SEN-sponsored participants were required to participate in the SEN-KB clinic. In addition, most SEN-sponsored participants presented their research at poster sessions during the CSDMS meeting.

The SEN-KB clinic at the CSDMS meeting was held on Wednesday, May 23, 2017, and included a total of 33 participants with varying levels of existing familiarity with SEN activities. The 2-hour clinic included a tutorial on using SEN-KB (www.sedexp.net) to share and discover information on experiments, an introduction to using SEAD (“Sustainable Environment Actionable Data”: https://sead2.ncsa.illinois.edu/) for publishing related experimental datasets, and a “DataThon” session for clinic participants to review, contribute, and utilize entries on SEN-KB and SEAD. To better explain the features of SEAD, which has been partnering with SEN to support publication and documentation of experimental datasets, SEAD leader Jim Myers (U Michigan) attended and actively participated in the SEN-KB clinic.

SEN-CSDMS joint events like our 2017 clinic greatly accelerate the improvement and adoption of SEN's tools. We are able to learn a variety of user needs and fix issues while application developers are present. Without these partner clinics, we would not have a way to bring a large and diverse set of stakeholders together to facilitate the development of technical resources for our research community.

Though NSF funding for SEN will end in August 2017, we hope to sustain the SEN community indefinitely through crowdsourced maintenance of SEN-KB and other SEN-developed resources, and through participation in future meetings like those held by CSDMS. These efforts will become more difficult when SEN funding ends. Therefore, we are currently considering several possible funding mechanisms for sustaining SEN and its collaboration with CSDMS into the future. Our focus is to seek resources to support the following:
  • Form a science team within CSMDS that brings together scientists and technologists to solve a science problem while adopting new technical resources, executing data-model integration, and finding solutions for model output storage and reuse.
  • Continue to support the next generation of experimentalists and modelers by providing training for new tools and best practices, building networks between experimentalists and modelers, and cross-pollinating communities by teaching experimentalists how to incorporate numerical models to interpret their results and teaching modelers how to discover and reuse experimental datasets.

In summary, SEN’s co-sponsorship of the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting built on a productive partnership between the Earth-surface experimentalist and modeling communities that we plan to carry into the future. 

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