UT College of Communication and Information Receives $3.2 Million to be Part of NSF-funded Project

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KNOXVILLE — The College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will receive $3.2 million over five years — the largest grant award the college has ever received — to participate in a National Science Foundation project to help create a data network that will enable earth and environmental scientists worldwide to share and preserve their research.

The project is called DataONE, with ONE being short for Observation Network for Earth. The mission of DataONE is to enable new science and knowledge creation through universal access to data about life on earth and the environment that sustains it. Its challenge is to set up the infrastructure through which communities of researchers worldwide can share data to make new discoveries that improve life.

UT’s participants include School of Information Sciences Professors Carol Tenopir and Suzie Allard, and Bruce Wilson, who holds a joint appointment with UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Maribeth Manoff and Eleanor Read of UT Libraries; and UT research associate Mike Frame.

The principal investigator for DataONE is William Michener of the University of New Mexico. A host of other organizations — including ORNL, other universities, and coalitions of scientists, libraries and computing groups nationwide — are part of the team. Each entity will receive its own funding, with the entire DataONE project getting a total of about $20 million.

Mike Wirth, dean of the College of Communication and Information, called the project “the Star Trek of information science,” and said UT’s inclusion in it reflects the cutting-edge research in information science that’s being done on campus.

Allard, who expects to devote about a fourth of her work time to the project for the next five years, said DataONE’s challenge is to learn how scientists from many domains gather and label their data, then identify and develop tools, including software that will allow scientists to more easily access, interpret and use each other’s research. Additionally, Allard said, “DataONE’s support for collaboration between libraries, information researchers and scientists provides new strategies to answer these challenges.”

The end result, Tenopir said, will be “a framework that allows scientists to make better use of the data that’s being gathered worldwide to solve the world’s environmental problems.”

The DataONE team also will study how a vast digital data network can be kept safe and how it can be accessed into the future so scientists can continue to use the data and get credit for the work they’ve done. They also must help determine data standards, the best tools for using data, where such a data network will be kept and who is responsible for it.

The National Science Foundation plans to establish five DataNet partners or collaborations, with DataONE being one of the first two funded.

For more on the NSF DataNet project, see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf07601/nsf07601.htm.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034, ablakely@tennessee.edu)

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