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You are here: Home eNewsletter Archives 2009 September 2009 Metacat will further equip SAEON for its role as world data proprietor

Metacat will further equip SAEON for its role as world data proprietor

A vested interest in bioinformatics data. From left: Dr Martie van Deventer - CSIR, Vivian Hutchison – US Geological Survey, Matthew B Jones – Metacat, Avinash Chuntharpursat - SAEON, Judith Kruger – SANParks, Michael Daigle – NCEAS, Hardy Jonck – Qsens and Herman Geldenhuys – Qsens (Picture by Mitzi du Plessis)

In April 2008, SAEON data/ information managers visited the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in the USA to study metadata management via Metacat (metadata management software).

Following this visit, Matthew B Jones, Vivian Hutchison and Michael Daiglefrom NCEAS visited South Africa in July to install Metacat and train staff on its use at various sites, including three SAEON nodes.

The visit was moreover aimed at expanding the current ecoinformatics data network in South Africa, improving Metacat for ease of deployment, producing new data catalog designs for SANParks and SAEON, and providing metadata support across sites.

The Metacat demonstration took place at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. It was attended by Hardy Jonck, Managing Director of QSens1; Avinash Chuntharpursat, SAEON’s Information Management Scientist; Judith Kruger of Scientific Services at South African National Parks (SANParks); and Dr Martie van Deventer, Portfolio Manager of the CSIR's Information Services.

Metacat, a flexible metadata database that can reside on any platform or server, currently forms part of the data management and analysis tools supporting adaptive management in SANParks. The Metacat team spent the past three years building the data system for the Kruger National Park (KNP). This system is now ready to be extended to a broader group of parks.

The challenges the group faced included data accessibility, data interpretation, analytical transparency, automating analysis for regularity, and communicating results to management.

Thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation, three parts of the data management system have been put in place – data and metadata sharing (using Metacat), workflow analysis (using Kepler) and communicating results (automated notification) via the web. Both Metacat and Kepler are open source and freely available software.

Integral part of CoGIS portal

According to team leader Matthew B Jones, SAEON has been selected as a world data proprietor. Metacat will be hosted in Pretoria as an integral part of SAEON’s CoGIS portal  . The SANParks system will feed information into the SAEON system. The SANParks system currently serves as a front end over which layers will be mapped to create views for all the participants, such as a SAEON view, a CSIR view, and a KNP view.

“The look and feel can be customized to each of the sites,” Jones said. Each site will be linked to a mirror site in the US including LTER (long-term environmental research) sites of special significance to SAEON. This will enable US researchers to access SA data and vice versa.

Ultimately a Metacat hub will be created to serve South Africa as a whole. It will be a flexible network that will be able to expand, and will be focused on the replication of metadata.

Another development is that NCEAS and SANParks are currently partnering with a number of institutes to create a global data network. These institutes include ILTER, SAEON, US Geological Survey, and Intel. Vivian Hutchison, one of the Metacat team members, is an expert in developing crosswalks between systems.

“Replication is of the utmost importance as we never know when a server might get stolen,” Jones said, and emphasised that the SAEON nodes will need capacity to expand for this purpose.

In conclusion Jones said that the team members were investigating cost efficient ways of data transfer and harvesting.

1  QSens is the software developers for SAEON’s CoGIS portal.

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