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Title: Ag Data Commons: Adding Value to Open Agricultural Research Data

item Parr, Cynthia

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/24/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Public access to results of federally-funded research is a new mandate for large departments of the United States government. Public access to scholarly literature from U.S. investments is straightforward, with policies and systems like PubMed Central and PubAg ( already implemented. However, research data release is a more complex undertaking. Agricultural researchers make their data available in a patchwork of locations, if they share it at all, and metadata and data formats are far from standardized. Many data types overlap with basic science domains that have standards (e.g. biodiversity, genomics, hydrology) but have little in common with each other and are not tailored for agriculture. USDA's prototype system, the Ag Data Commons (, will meet the requirements of public access but should also go further to facilitate novel, data-intensive science. Aimed at researchers, Ag Data Commons used DKAN, a Drupal-based catalog and repository ( to enhance discoverability and access to well-curated resources (data files, databases, software) deposited in the sytem or held elsewhere. Core metadata fields are from Project Open Data v.1.1 (a requirement of the U.S. open data catalog at, but we added fields and features to support scholarly research. We issue DataCite Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), accept author ORCIDs (, apply NAL thesaurus terms, and encourage citation of literature and linkage with related datasets and other online resources. While extremely detailed metadata are impractical given the breadth of agricultural domains, we can extract fields from sophisticated ISO 19115 geographic information metadata and extended metadata files can be posted and will be indexed. We are piloting the harvest of distributed metadata records. Towards data integration and standardizaiton, we are developing guidelines for machine-readable data dictionaries, manifests of data elements in datasets not unlike Darwin Core Archives. We are exploring ways to enable basic interactive visualizations. Metadata are available in JSON ( and RDF (http://www.w3.ord/RDF/) with dedicated feeds for publication links and (eventually) compliance checking. Many challenges remain before we can move from prototype to production. Among the challenges are how to provide easy API (application program interface) access to elements in data files, interface with related systems (e.g., Dryad, DataONE, Ecolnforma, iPlant), leverage methods metadata and semantics, better support provenance and impact tracking, and ease the pain of both working with and preserving big data for high performance computing.