Providing environmental FAIR data and services for society, innovation and research. The European Project ENVRI-FAIR

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Andreas Petzold,
Ari Asmi,
Daniela Franz


Magdalena Brus

The EPOS Newsletter issue 03
July 2019 | Article 01

The environmental research infrastructures will implement FAIRness on diverse levels, from data and metadata towards the access and use of services (image source: doi:10.5281/zenodo.3299353, modified).

The environmental research infrastructures will implement FAIRness on diverse levels, from data and metadata towards the access and use of services (image source: doi:10.5281/zenodo.3299353, modified).

Environmental changes are the result of a complex interaction of natural and anthropogenic processes on all scales from local to global. Understanding and quantification of these changes is a necessary requirement for the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies. Reliable predictions of environmental changes must be based on trustworthy, well-documented observations that capture the entire complexity of the Earth system and the manifold interactions between the atmosphere, the land, and the ocean, including the impacts on all forms of life.

Environmental data provides the scientific basis for analysing the physical, biological, and economic processes in the Earth system that affect all sectors of society as well as wildlife and biodiversity. Easy and fast access to reliable, high quality environmental data is fundamental for research, and for the development of environmental prediction and assessment services. It is also vital for assessing past and defining future policies, as well as for the development of environment-friendly innovations. The demand for Earth system data is rapidly increasing, but the tools to manage, document, find, access, and use such data are still under-developed owing to the combination of data complexity and data volumes. The European project ENVRI-FAIR responds to these steadily growing needs and challenges.

ENVRI-FAIR brings together the research infrastructures of the Environmental Research Infrastructure (ENVRI) community which are currently listed on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) as Landmarks or Projects. Those are the large producers and providers of environmental research data in Europe collected from in-situ and space-based observing systems. They cover the four main domains of the Earth system (Atmosphere, Marine, Solid Earth, and Biodiversity/Terrestrial Ecosystems), and emerge as crucial pillars for environmental scientists in their quest for understanding and interpreting the complex Earth system.

The environmental research infrastructures contributing to ENVRI-FAIR have developed comprehensive expertise in their fields of environmental research, but integration of research activities across the boundaries of applied domain science is still not fully developed. However, this integration is crucially needed since for instance the largest uncertainties in our current understanding of climate change, and the related impact on the Earth system, are associated with the complex feedback mechanisms in the climate system and the corresponding responses to these changes at the ecosystem level. To study these interactions requires unimpeded use of multidisciplinary data from different domains, with findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) digital metadata and data as an absolute prerequisite.

The overarching goal of ENVRI-FAIR is to advance the FAIRness of digital assets, in particular, data and services provided by the ENVRI cluster and connect them to the emerging service ecosystem of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). Well advanced flagship research infrastructures with a high level of maturity, such as EPOS, IAGOS, ICOS, EURO-ARGO, and EMSO, will lead the development and implementation of interoperable services and provide support and guidance to the less mature and upcoming RIs. After its successful finalisation, ENVRI-FAIR will provide a set of interoperable FAIR data services that enhance the efficiency and productivity of researchers, supports innovation, and enables data- and knowledge-based decisions.