Harvard Forest and University of Massachusetts scientists develop new process for synthesizing ecological data sets

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Ecologists are often interested in synthesizing a diverse array of complex datasets to address new ecological questions, but synthesizing datasets to produce reliable and reproducible results is a challenging task.

Now, a team of ecologists from the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site and computer scientists from the University of Massachusetts have developed formal representations, known as "analytic webs," that provide both producers and consumers of datasets complete and precise definitions of the scientific processes that are used to process scientific datasets.

The team, comprising of A.M. Ellison, L.J. Osterweil, L. Clarke, J.L. Haldley, A. Wise, E. Boose, D.R. Foster, A. Hanson, D. Jensen, P. Kuzeja, E. Riseman, and H. Schultz, whose work was supported by the National Science Foundation, developed a prototype software tool called SciWalker that is used to create the analytic webs and synthesize the data.

The researchers successfully applied analytic webs to the analysis and synthesis of forest carbon-dioxide exchange data from eddy flux towers located at the Harvard Forest's Prospect Hill, and their findings published in a paper titled "Analytic Webs Support the Synthesis of Ecological Data Sets" in the June issue of the journal Ecology, 87(6): 1345-1358.

You can read the full article here http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/0012-9658%282006%2987%5B1345%3AAWSTSO%5D2.0.CO%3B2 or download a PDF version here.