Jun 032011
 

The overall aim of the IGIBS project is to try and improve the relationship between the UK’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as manifested through the UK Location Programme (UKLP) and the UK’s academic SDI.

Our main objective is to focus on use cases emerging from research and education related to a particular area – the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.  Once articulated, these user requirements will drive the creation of two pieces of software of wider applicability and assist Aberystwyth University in developing resources for use by local students.

We are building on much prior art, especially in the area of Access Control.  EDINA runs the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) and, while it might not be fashionable, the reality is that many SDI resources, eg, data and web services, are going to stay protected.  This is true both of INSPIRE at the European scale and the UKLP nationally.  We aim to show how Shibboleth (the open source software that underpins the UKAMF) can be used to enable a wider range of use cases, so that UK students can get access to both open and protected resources, eg, from UK public authorities like Welsh Government.

We expect that the main four products resulting from this project will be:

  1. Working prototype of a “WMS factory” tool
  2. Simple mapping application
  3. Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level
  4. Demonstration of UK access management technology being used to secure public sector services in combination with academic sector services

SDI is underpinned by open geospatial standards like the OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS).  The “WMS factory” tool will allow users to upload their data and instantiate a WMS so that their data can then be viewed online, via a simple mapping application, in conjunction with reference data from Welsh Government.

Shibboleth is already used in academia, we extend its use here to demonstrate how public sector data can be made securely available to authenticated and authorised users within academia.

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES) has ambitions to improve the way it educates students in the use of open geospatial interoperability standards and intends using the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area as an exemplar.  To this end we are conducting an inventory of data for the area and creating a repository for educational use.  The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” will feed into this activity as well as provide guidance for the wider university sector.

May 232011
 

Last Wednesday (18th May) I attended a meeting of the Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum at Aberystwyth University.  Chaired by Mike Woods of the Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, the meeting showcased a selection of the wide range of different research activities that have taken place (or are underway) in the Dyfi Biosphere area.

  • Chris Lea (Welsh Assembly Government) gave the keynote stressing WAGs support for R&D in the area, particularly as it relates to the work of the Sustainability and Environmental Evidence Division
  • Palma Blonda (CNR, Italy) and Richard Lucas (Aberystwyth University) gave an overview of the EU funded BIOdiversity multi-source monitoring system: from Space TO Species (BIO-SOS) project
  • Mike Bailey (CCW): dipped into what is obviously a deep mine of personal knowledge of the area and presented on recent research in the core conservation zone of the Dyfi Biosphere
  • Mike Hambrey (Aberystwyth University): gave a fascinating presentation on the last glaciation in Wales with a focus on the Dyfi catchment
  • Paul Brewer (Aberystwyth University) outlined some surprising results in a presentation entitled “Altered morphodynamics in the tidally-influenced lower Dyfi: re-thinking catchment management, flood risk & material fluxes”
  • Yours truly (Chris Higgins) presented on IGIBS (IGIBS_BDB_Research_Forum_May11) emphaising that the project needs input, eg, via the questionairre from this group if it is to benefit Dyfi related R&D and bring further resources into the area
  • Mike Christie (Aberystwyth University) gave a very erudite presentation on a hot subject that I think we will be hearing a lot more about: Valuing ecosystem services
  • Ambra Burls (Independent researcher) and her guest Zena Willmot from Coed Lleol talked about very pertinent related work – Environment and health
  • Man (apologies, didnt catch the name and not on the programme) from Centre for Alternative Technology talked about the groundbreaking work CAT is doing in relation to “Building adaptation for climate change”
  • Finally, Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University) spoke on “The Dyfi biosphere in context: research from the Wales Rural Observatory.”  Again, very apposite, some very surprising insights and all the more interesting as coming at the question of Biosphere related research from a different angle

We had 20-30 minute at the end for a brief plenary discussion.  Lots of good ideas here but no time to go into any of them in any real depth. At the risk of pre-empting the minutes, IMHO, a couple of themes started to emerge:

  • Need to broaden the scope of the Research Forum to include greater representation from the social sciences
  • Must bear in mind the need to engage with the wider community
  • Terms of reference need nailed down
  • Lack of resourcing a problem

Of course, the IGIBS project has some resources (at least up until November 2011) and, as project manager, I volunteered that the project team would do what we can to help as long as it aligns with the project objectives.

The one thing we can help with is laying firm foundations for getting the most out of online Geographic Information and managing Dyfi Biosphere research related data.  Our hope is that the work we do in this short project helps you and others like you inititiate and execute future projects in the area.  To lay this foundation well, we need input from stakeholders in the Dyfi Biosphere and from the research forum in particular.  Please fill in the questionnaire, even if its only a partial response.

 Posted by at 20:13 Project Management, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum meeting
May 162011
 

An important part of the data collation for this project is to make sure we know what level of access is allocated to the data. For example some data sets will have sensitive data which would not be for general viewing whilst others will be available to most and students will be able to use it for their research.

We have recently received data set lists from Paul Brewer at IGES and Colin Chapman at WAG. Paul Brewer has given us a list of hydrology data sets as well as LiDAR data and aerial photography for the Dyfi catchment that would be available for all students and academics to access. Some of these data sets have been noted by Jonathan Brownett, MSc student who would like these to help with his thesis research. We have also acquired a list of data that WAG may be able provide. These may contain sensitive data and will have user restrictions. Both Paul Brewer and Colin Chapman should have other data lists available to us at a later date.

 Posted by at 12:14 msc, phd, undergraduate, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Access to data.
Apr 182011
 

Information is now being collated on available data sets to incorporate in this project. We have identified a number of case study users from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), Aberystwyth University and Forest Research in Wales, Forestry Commission who have previously and are currently working on projects based in the Dyfi Biosphere.

As part of the process for gathering this information users are being actively encouraged to create dataset metadata using GeoDoc tool – found within the GoGeo area on the EDINA web site. This utility is used to create standards compliant dataset metadata for upload into catalogues, eg, GoGeo! so that the data can be discovered, evaluated and possibly reused. Note that you need to have UK Access Management credentials to use GeoDoc.

Users that we have identified so far consist of academics, researchers and students within IGES in Aberystwyth University, and from the Centre for Catchment and Coastal Research (CCCR) which is a consortium of Aberystwyth University and Bangor University. Users will also include researchers from Forestry Research in Wales, Forestry Commission and staff from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). Within these bodies individuals have been identified and we will develop these as user case studies. We are currently collating their data sets and identifying their relevant uses and needs.

In the following weeks we will collate and input data sets some of which are complete whilst others are work in progress. These data sets will come from the individual user case studies. The user case studies will be something like the following:
• IGES Academic/Researcher
• IGES/CCCR Academic/Researcher
• IGES MSc Student
• IGES PhD Student
• IGES Digital Map Librarian
• Forestry Research Researcher
• CCW Senior Reserve Warden for Dyfi Biosphere Area

A ‘shopping list’ of data sets that are either not currently available to these users (and which they would like access to) or are difficult to find will also be identified and collated. Already we have had requests for biogeochemical data sets from IGES/CCCR, and for remote sensing data sets from Forest Research. It is hoped that Welsh Assembly Government may be able to help with some of these data and that, even if their use is restricted, we may be able to offer access to using web services secured using Shibboleth (the software underlying the UK Access Management Federation).

So far we have identified from the academic/researcher evidence that both academic staff and students would find the Web Map Service (WMS) “factory” application useful as a research and teaching tool. It has also been suggested by one of the academic users that an undergraduate module could be developed around the use of open geospatial standards. It was agreed that using the GeoDoc metadata input facility would generally improve data management practice for research projects.

Any comments from the user case study individuals or other potential users would be much appreciated to ensure the relevant uses and needs of all involved in this project are identified. The information will feed into the development of the mapping application and the identification of future requirements.

 Posted by at 15:05 User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Collation of data sets
Apr 162011
 

This is a big topic that is often neglected and often proves fatal for SDI initiatives meeting their ambitions.  The reality is that much valuable data is restricted; this is true for the UK National SDI (UK Location Programme), the UK academic SDI and INSPIRE.  A genuinely interoperable means of allowing OGC Web Service clients (like the one we are developing in IGIBS) to consume WMS (open and restricted) from multiple distributed organisations without having to provide multiple user credentials is difficult.  Building on much prior work, we are going to try to demonstrate in IGIBS how Shibboleth – the open source SAML implementation that powers the UK Access Management Federation – can be used to allow protected public sector WMS can be made securely available to the academic sector.  We will also demonstrate the converse, how users in the academic sector can securely publish their data and control who can see it if they need to.  We will use this page to solicit comment and hopefully gather recommendations for further work.

 Posted by at 15:33 Security Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Security Category