Building a Data Commons for biosphere management

A community of exchange comprises producers and consumers. And although the two roles are not mutually exclusive, both are required for a functioning market. The core roles in the biosphere data market are sensing (gathering data on organisms and the health of the ecosystem and biosphere), and consuming that data to do science, manage pest eradication, understand and manage bioheritage, and stop invasive pests.

Sensing activity (data capture)

Sensing activity is the people and processes that gather new data. Sensors might be human or machines, including remote sensing devices, cameras, hunters, trappers, farmers, citizens, sample collectors, station managers, NGOs, and pest eradication groups. These all collect data about the environment, whether it is their stated intent or an unintended byproduct of their activity.

Data reusers

These are the analysts and consumers of data, the generators of insight, who sometimes need to integrate and reuse that data to do their work. This can include:

  • Direct operational sharing of data. “Somebody else’s bait station just went off, I’d better go check it for them.”

  • Adding value to data and returning it to the commons for somebody else to use. “I’ve been scanning your camera trap photos and this one contains a ferret” or “I have taken your soil sample and determined its biodiversity using DNA analysis.”

  • Analysts add value to the data by integrating it and examining it and drawing conclusions that are useful for decision-makers. Progress against agreed metrics can be tracked over time, to see whether efforts to achieve a certain end are having any effect. Sophisticated analysis involving multiple controls can even attempt to attribute progress to a particular factor using integrated data.

There are consumers of data at all levels and across the entire breadth of the interest spectrum – from bait station managers who need to know which bait stations to check, to community groups monitoring their area, and Predator Free New Zealand’s monitoring of the New Zealand-wide situation. Funders investing in biodiversity and pest eradication need insight into progress, scientists pursuing research and publication need access to quality data, and school and community groups who want to get involved will engage best when information is available. To develop a successful ecology data market, we must define the core engagement and have a strategy in place to leverage the network effect of the data market for greatest impact.

This data sharing capability could be built as a point solution which adds specific data sharing applications over time. But it would be less costly, scale faster, be less fragile, and solve a number of other challenges (trust, control, inclusion) if it were built as a Data Commons according to the principles outlined above.

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