Canada’s 52 International Polar Year (IPY) science and research projects are collecting and producing vast quantities of data and information on the Arctic. From ocean salinity to atmospheric chemistry, and from elements found in human blood to information on traditional Inuit travel routes over sea ice, IPY data and information covers a very diverse range of observations, measurements, physical samples, models, publications and products. To ensure that the knowledge and observations generated through IPY become part of the IPY legacy, this data must be managed effectively. Addressing this need, the Government of Canada Program for International Polar Year has dedicated $7 million for IPY data management initiatives.
In the spirit of international cooperation which is a cornerstone of IPY, data generated by every IPY project is to be made fully, freely and openly available to all interested users within the shortest possible timescale. Exceptions will be made to protect: the privacy of human subjects; the rights of traditional knowledge holders; as well as any sensitive information or data the release of which could cause harm, such as the nesting locations of endangered birds or sacred sites.
Observed data and physical samples collected during IPY represent a valuable resource that will provide scientific value decades into the future, serving as benchmarks against which global change can be measured. The IPY Federal Program Office is currently investigating the most appropriate methods to preserve observed data and physical samples collected during IPY with particular attention to long-term preservation and the provision of access to IPY data in the future.
By ensuring that Canada’s IPY data is kept secure, accessible and open to free exchange, current and future researchers, policy and decision makers will have the appropriate tools to make informed decisions on Canada’s North.
Canadian Polar Data Catalogue
Proposals are being sought from existing data centres and research libraries to be part of an IPY Data Assembly Centre Network. The network will consist of data centres that will individually specialize in a thematic data set type from the IPY research (e.g. marine, atmosphere, terrestrial, human health, community based) but also act as a back-up/mirror for each other centre in the network. This network will be coordinated by an IPY Data Centre Committee made up of representatives from each of the selected data centres and chaired by the IPY Federal Program Office.
Canadian Polar Data Catalogue
The Canadian Polar Data Catalogue is an online, searchable database of discovery level information or “metadata”, which was developed as part of IPY in partnership with ArcticNet, a Network of Centres of Excellence. The catalogue includes descriptions of the available data, including attributes of the data, collection methods, locations, etc., and information on how to access it. More than 500 data sets have been generated through Canada’s IPY research projects, and the majority of these data sets are now featured in the catalogue. The diversity of types of data sets is shown in the figure below.
In addition to generating a large number of data sets, IPY projects are producing a sizeable number of publications. These publications, together with publications related to the three previous IPYs, are captured in the Canadian IPY Publications Database, which is maintained in partnership with the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary. The database is intended to capture the scientific peer reviewed publications resulting from IPY, as well as more popularized publications, articles and grey literature related to all aspects of IPY, including its outreach and educations initiatives. For each record, the database contains a citation, abstract, and detailed subject and geographic terms, and URLs are noted for materials that are available on the Web. With respect to the most recent IPY (2007-2008), Canadian IPY publications began appearing in 2004 and are anticipated to be produced for at least the next 10 years.