As project manager of the Interoperable Geographic Information for Biosphere Study (IGIBS) project, the pleasure of the first blog post falls to me.
The project formally started 2 days ago (on the 1st of April) and is scheduled to run for 7 months up to the end of Oct 2011. Its a partnership between EDINA, the Welsh Assemby Government (WAG) and the University of Aberystwyth. The Kickoff meeting is being held next week (11th April) at the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education down the valley from where I am typing this at the Centre for Alternative Technology – a location central to Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere.
The original proposal (more information to follow) has left us with some flexibility around exactly what we implement in this short project and we intend that the Kickoff meeting helps drill down to the detail now the project is real and not just an idea in a few peoples heads. Again, more information in subsequent posts on this.
Basically, the overarching idea is to try to improve the connect between the UK’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as manifested through the UK Location Programme and the UK’s Academic SDI. We want to do this by focussing on pressing use cases emerging from research and education related to a particular area – the Dyfi Biosphere. If you dont know where this is then shame on you, its a lovely area in mid-Wales around the River Dyfi (pronounced Dovey) estuary at the Southern end of the better known Snowdonia National Park.
The idea behind the UNESCO WNBR (World Network of Biosphere Reserves) is a network of exemplar areas exploring and showcasing how people can live in harmony with nature. This is often referred to under the umbrella term of Sustainable Development. For the purposes of this project, the definition of Sustainable Development we will be working to is that from the Brundtland Commission, ie, that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Research and education is a key element in achieving the UNESCO Biosphere designation and the project will benefit significantly from the involvement of the University of Aberystwyth’s Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences (IGES) – the main Higher Education facility within the Biosphere area.
Our area of expertise is interoperable Geographic Information (GI), and by that I mean GI served up over the internet in accordance with open geospatial interoperability standards from, primarily the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and ISO TC/211. The other major contextual initiative for this project is the INSPIRE Directive – Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe. In this respect, the involvement of WAG in this project is especially welcome and we hope to be able to begin enumerating some of the benefits of public authorities making their data access services interoperable in accordance with INSPIRE – at least, in so far as it relates to their relationship with the academic sector.
In IGIBS, we will investigate the practicality of creating a tool that enables users to upload and instantiate an OGC Web Map Service (or View Service if you are coming from the INSPIRE world) allowing users to view and analyse their data in combination with a range of other interoperable distributed data sources, eg, reference data from WAG. To enable a broader range of use cases, we will use Shibboleth to secure the WMS where appropriate. Much prior art being brought to this project, particularly in the area of access control from the ESDIN project and the UK Access Management Federation (EDINA provides technical and operational support for the UKAMF).
On the whole, I think this project is rich with potential. Having spent a few hours reading round some UNESCO web sites, my only regret is that the project is not 5 times longer in duration and 10 times better resourced. But then again, a short focussed project with a good team can sometimes deliver a punch way above its weight. More after the Kickoff meeting…