EarthCubeEarthCube was launched in mid-2011 as a collaborative partnership between National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI), with the goal of creating a more sustainable future through better understanding of Earth as a complex and changing planet. EarthCube is a cornerstone of NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure for the 21st Century (CIF21) initiative, whose chief objective is to develop a nationwide, sustainable, and community-based cyberinfrastructure for researchers and educators.

Initial Planning

The NSF GEO Directorate and Office of Cyberinfrastructure (now Division of Advance Cyberinfrastructure) announced their partnership in launching EarthCube. Several webinars followed and an additional document (EarthCube Guidance to the Community) gave more-detailed guidance on EarthCube.

2011–2012: EarthCube Charrettes and Roadmaps

June 2012 CharretteIn its first year, EarthCube held two charrettes. The first charrette (November 2011) served to gather and review as many ideas as possible from a broad array of potential EarthCube participants (Earth scientists, IT experts, data managers, and other interested parties) to jumpstart the planning and development processes for EarthCube. This charrette led to the formation of Community Groups (Data, Governance, Semantics & Ontologies, and Workflow), tasked with gathering user requirements through broad engagement of the geosciences and IT communities, and Concept Teams (Brokering, Earth System Model, Layered Architecture, Cross-Domain Interoperability, Web Services, Open Hydrospheric Modeling Framework (OHMF), and Dark Geo Data), tasked with evaluating and prototyping innovative key technologies.

Each group wrote and delivered a roadmap to NSF, each of which was reviewed at the second charrette in June 2012. These roadmaps were the culmination of months of research, community outreach, and deliberations in virtual and physical meetings, and served to collectively provide NSF and other interested parties with a spectrum of ideas and concepts from the Earth, computer, information science and other stakeholder communities regarding key elements needed to build EarthCube. The second charrette aimed to synthesize the roadmaps into a common vision and create a cohesive set of milestones to move EarthCube forward.

Two meetings of the Principal Investigators of the Roadmap groups were convened in late 2012 to build on work accomplished at the first two charrettes. These meetings aimed to integrate the roadmaps and develop a more cohesive vision of how to move EarthCube forward. These meetings generated ideas regarding use cases, reference architecture, governance, and timelines. Reports from these meetings are archived in the EarthCube document repository.

While the second charrette and the Principal Investigator meetings made progress towards synthesizing the roadmaps, it became clear that developing a common vision based on end-user scientists’ needs was a greater challenge than initially anticipated. Thus, one of the main conclusions from this phase was that a community engagement and outreach effort must be undertaken to grow the EarthCube community and gather user requirements to truly develop a cohesive vision for EarthCube.

2012–2013: Building the EarthCube Community

GSA2014_Booth.JPGA coordinated series of approaches to engagement and outreach in 2012­­–2013 provided important and useful insights for the growth and development of EarthCube and its community.

End-User Workshops. NSF funded 25 domain-specific EarthCube End-user Workshops, targeting a broad spectrum of Earth, atmosphere, ocean, and related scientists, including senior and early career scientists, to allow geoscience communities to articulate and document their cyberinfrastructure needs to improve data and information access within and outside their disciplines. 

Stakeholder Alignment Survey. The success of EarthCube will depend on the ability of diverse stakeholders to orient and connect with one another in new ways that advance both individual and shared objectives. An EarthCube Stakeholder Alignment Survey has been underway since 2012, with the aim to further explore these issues.

EarthCube at Professional Conferences. Community engagement in the form of workshops, posters, presentations, an EarthCube booth, and more, has taken place at numerous meetings and conferences in the geosciences and IT fields. 

Virtual Engagement.  EarthCube has been published in trade and scholarly journals and has a presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). A large-scale virtual kickoff has held to mark a new round of 2013 NSF EarthCube awards, along with ongoing virtual events, including webinars.

2013–2014: EarthCube Funded Projects

In 2013 and 2014, NSF awarded $25 million in funding to: 

  • Building Block projects to develop initial software components and key technologies for EarthCube
  • Conceptual Design projects to develop broad architecture designand explore integrative systems 
  • Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) to advance community-building exemplars and help these communities prioritize specific software development projects to engage with EarthCube, and
  • a single Test Governance project to develop and test a prototype governance framework for EarthCube.

2014 EarthCube All-Hands Meeting

The 2014 EarthCube All-Hands Meeting was held June 24–26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Nearly 150 members of the geo- and cyber-science communities, representing over 90 academic institutions, government agencies, non- and for-profit organizations, and consortia were brought together to share their progress and experience with EarthCube thus far, and discuss and plan activities for the coming year. Session proposals that were brought forth by the community helped create a dynamic and diverse meeting, which generated a series of recommendations related to governance, technology, architecture, and community building. 

2014-2015: EarthCube Demonstration Governance

Participants of the 2014 All-Hands Meeting finalized a draft charter, enabling EarthCube's Demonstration Governance effort to engage diverse geo- and cyber-science communities in applying a responsive approach to the development of an appropriate governing system for EarthCube.

This charter was developed as part of the EarthCube Test Governance project, drawing on the series of End-User Workshops, an Assembly of multiple stakeholder groups, and large-scale crowdsourcing efforts.

The Year 2 (2014-2015) demonstration phase is testing the effectiveness of the proposed framework and will allow for elements to be changed to better meet community needs. It began by populating committees and teams, and finalizing leadership and decision-making processes to move forward on community-selected priorities, including identifying science drivers, coordinating emerging technical elements, and coming to convergence on system architecture. A January mid-year review ("Check & Adjust Meeting") convened these groups to analyze the effectiveness of the framework thus far and make adjustments as necessary. The Demonstration Governance phase was reviewed at the 2015 All-Hands Meeting and will wrap up in early 2016.

2015: EarthCube Funded Projects

In 2015, NSF awarded 14 grants totallying roughly $10 million in funding to:

  • Integrative Activities projects to improve access to the products of geosciences research so that a broader array of geosciences communities may help shape future EarthCube activities and outcomes; and
  • Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) to advance community-building exemplars and help these communities prioritize specific software development projects to engage with EarthCube.

Read more about the latest Funded Projects here.