Jon White – From the President’s Office: 10-14-2019

2019-10-16T16:55:55+00:00 October 16, 2019|

The Data Debacle — To Share Or Not To Share 

Sunday night, I watched John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight” provide a humorous but accurate description of the roles of NOAA’s National Weather Service and those of commercial weather providers. In doing so, he brought into the general consciousness the very real and concerning debate around the issues of data and products that are provided by the federal government and those that are provided by private, commercial weather services. This is a piece of the broader subject of ocean and atmospheric data sharing, availability, and accessibility.

This made me think (again) about the long-standing debate around which data and derived products should be fully available to the public (and who should pay for them) and which are rightfully protected due to national security, legal, or proprietary reasons. I can’t overstate the importance of having ocean and atmospheric data and products (e.g., forecasts, tornado warnings, nautical charts, harmful algal bloom status) provided by NOAA and other federal agencies available free of charge. These are essential to public safety and prosperity. Yet there are certainly valid reasons why all data cannot be shared, and some amount of commercial sourcing of data and products should be legitimate and supported by policy that is agreed upon by scientific communities and other stakeholders.

The issue of data sharing is not new, and it’s only going to become more important as we move further into the Information Age. As advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence promise a revolutionary ability to examine, parse, and protect data in transformational ways, we must ensure our policies and practices in data management enable the requisite flexibility and agility to keep pace. Future advances will help us understand and predict changes in the ocean, atmosphere, and climate, and the overarching decisions that will be made all over the world from these data will impact lives and livelihoods. With that, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to use these tools to ensure we’re sharing everything we can and should. It’s too important for us to take a “wait and see” approach to addressing this issue; instead, we need to be making informed, all-encompassing decisions about data sharing, availability, and accessibility. After all, no one wants to be in a town that doesn’t have best possible information about an approaching hazardous weather (or ocean) event while an approaching train (or ship) has better.

Member Highlight
Solution To Ice Age Ocean Chemistry Puzzle
New research into the chemistry of the oceans during ice ages is helping to solve a puzzle that has engaged scientists for more than two decades. At issue is how much of the CO2 that entered the ocean during ice ages can be attributed to the ‘biological pump’, where atmospheric carbon is absorbed by phytoplankton and sequestered to the seafloor as organisms die and sink. Led by IMAS and University of Liverpool scientists, the study found ice age phytoplankton in the tropics absorbed high levels of CO2 due to fertilization by iron-rich dust blowing into the ocean. Solving the puzzle is important to improve the accuracy of climate models and inform understanding of how ocean processes may react to future climate change.

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