HydroShare aims to help scientists collaborate on water-related problems

CHAPEL HILL, NC – RENCI, the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, will work with Utah State University and water scientists across the U.S. on a $4.5 million collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation aimed at giving hydrologists the technology infrastructure they need to address critical issues related to water quality, quantity, accessibility, and management.

The project will expand the data sharing capabilities of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) Hydrologic Information System (HIS) and includes collaborators from Brigham Young University, the University of South Carolina, Purdue University, Tufts University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California at San Diego.

The five-year project provides $2.1 million to RENCI to develop infrastructure for an online collaborative environment for discovering, accessing and sharing water science data sets, models and computer simulations.

Above: Mockup of a potential HydroShare interface. The Web-based system will help hydrologists easily share data, models and workflows so they are better able to collaborate on solutions to critical problems of water quality, quantity, safety and access. Image courtesy of Jeff Horsburgh and David Tarboton, Utah State University

“Think of it as Facebook for hydrologists who want to work collaboratively sharing data and models,” said David Tarboton of Utah State University, the lead principal investigator on the project.  Tarboton leads a multidisciplinary team spanning eight institutions that includes UNC PI Ray Idaszak, RENCI’s director of collaborative environments and technical coordinator for the project, and co-PI Larry Band, director of UNC Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment.

Dubbed HydroShare, the project will build a cyberinfrastructure to help scientists easily access water-related research data and models that are online, retrieve them to their desktops, and perform analyses that could include accessing other models or using computing systems in the cloud or in distributed grid infrastructures.

CUAHSI, supported in part by the National Science Foundation, is a nonprofit research organization representing more than 110 U.S. universities and international research organizations. It works to advance water science research and promote understanding of the central role of water to Earth and society by developing infrastructure to advance water science research.

“Scientific problems related to water—how to maintain quality, manage scarce water resources, and ensure accessibility—are fundamental to the health of our planet and its societies,” said Idaszak. “If we can help water scientists share and publish their data and make it easier for them to collaborate and address these critical challenges, the benefits will be widespread and long lasting. We feel privileged to partner with the hydrology community to solve these critical problems.”

CUAHSI HIS connects hydrologic databases housed on servers across the U.S. The web-based system also includes software used to publish, access and discover scientific data. HydroShare will broaden the classes of data accommodated by CUASHI HIS and expand its capability to sharing of hydrologic models and model components. It will use the integrated Rule-Oriented Data System (iRODS), software for managing distributed data developed by the Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) group at RENCI and UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, to develop the rules, filters, metadata tags, and methods for interpreting syntax that will accommodate easy discovery, access and sharing of multiple kinds of data.

The funding period began July 1 and a kickoff meeting will be held in the fall.

More information:
Utah State University
UNC Institute for the Environment