A new online NASA guidebook offers multimedia insights on Earth Science applications

By Erin Martin

When Enrique Montes, a biological oceanographer, started work in 2014 to support a global community of practice, he was skeptical about whether the team could achieve its main goal: bringing scientists together around common tools and protocols for observing marine life.

The key success factor, Montes knew, was that people would have to share their data.

“Scientists put a tremendous amount of work and resources into collecting data. Sometimes, they even take personal risks. So, why would they want to share it?” Montes said. “I assumed that data-sharing would be a huge diversion from their normal way of doing business.”

He thought he had an unachievable task on his hands.

Montes’ work to build the community of practice – which has a happy ending – is captured in one of several audio use cases in NASA’s new Earth Science Applications Guidebook. The use cases, in line with the overall aim of the guidebook, highlight lessons learned on the development of Earth Science-based applications.

Through the guidebook’s online, interactive platform, scientists and other audiences will find actionable approaches to building applications that will make a difference in addressing climate change, biodiversity, disaster management and other challenges.

Of note is “Developing Sustainable Applications,” a how-to section on applications development. It presents the interconnected dynamics of people, project management and science, alongside practical tips and guidance on proposal development, team management, partner engagement and communications.

Based in part on interviews with some 25 data users inside and outside NASA, the guidebook taps into decades of experience in Earth science, with the expertise and passion of scientists at its center.

Unlike a traditional print or pdf manual, the guidebook has multiple entry pathways that enable a visitor to choose a learning experience based on their interests. Multimedia features include audio clips from scientists, embedded videos, interactive content, and links to external resources.

An easy interface and plain language presentation make the guidebook accessible to audiences with varying technical backgrounds.

NASA sees the guidebook as a platform for strengthening the Earth Science community. Over the next year, related activities will include an online course developed through NASA ARSET, a content refresh and a symposium on best practices on Earth Science applications.

More information is available on the NASA Applied Sciences website or in this short, easily shareable video.

Back to Montes: After a short time with the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network’s Pole to Pole project, he was pleasantly surprised to find that researchers were excited about sharing their data and observations.

“It happened very rarely that people said no,” said Montes, who is based at the U. Miami Cooperative Institute For Marine And Atmospheric Studies and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory of NOAA. “The philosophy changed fast. People are more open to the idea that their data can be publicly available for everyone to use. They see the benefits for their own work.”

Over the last several years, MBON Pole to Pole created a community of practice from the Arctic to Antarctica based on the exchange of biodiversity information and knowledge, coordination on approaches, and sharing of monitoring techniques to understand how and why marine life changes over time. NASA is a co-funder of the initiative.