Work Package 1

The EVO Pilot was an ambitious two year project to test the value of new cloud technologies for connecting and integrating fragmented data, models, and tools to deliver new holistic approaches to environmental challenges. The need for such an approach has become increasingly clear as we seek to improve food, water and energy security. These all require a new way of working which spans disciplines and organisations, and that breaks down science-culture boundaries. If successful, the project would demonstrate the vision and opportunities for further funding, attract academic, policy, industry, and global partners, and create a stepchange in the way that NERC science is delivered and exploited.

The Approach

WP1 PDF flyerScience exemplars were presented as a web-based service to demonstrate how an EVO might function. This was achieved by establishing a project team with a mix of computer specialists, environmental scientists (from across 12 organisations) and an end-user stakeholder group covering a range of organisations. The work was organised into a series of packages which cooperated closely to deliver the overall vision. The packages covered; leadership and management; cyber infrastructure; modelling; and tested exemplars.

The exemplars were chosen to facilitate engagement with end-users and explore barriers and opportunities at three spatial scales; local, national and global. They focused on such topics as flooding, diffuse pollution and uncertainty in climate change projections. Thus the project combined a ‘narrow and deep’ testing approach using these exemplars with more ‘broad and shallow’ explorations of issues such as vocabularies and semantics, data security and legal issues.

A major conference was organised in May 2012 to showcase opportunities for national and international initiatives working in this area. It was held at the Royal Geographical Society and attracted more than 120 delegates.

The project’s Stakeholder Group provided guidance and support throughout the project, keen that outputs should illustrate the potential to offer solutions of real value to organisations that are challenged daily with tackling complex environmental problems.

The project’s Stakeholder Group provided guidance and support throughout the project, keen that outputs should illustrate the potential to offer solutions of real value to organisations that are challenged daily with tackling complex environmental problems.

WP1_diag_01

The design of the EVO portal

Benefits for the future

All the deliverables have been achieved with a community of postdocs, academics and end-users who are all now familiar with and excited by the opportunities of the approach. New funding is in place from a variety of sources including the Government’s Big Data Initiative, the international Belmont Forum and the NERC-TSB joint Environmental Data call, all of which have acknowledged the role of EVO.

A Final Report including descriptions of the barriers and opportunities encountered during the lifetime of the project is available on the EVO website (www.evo-uk.org). This provides a legacy to be exploited by the whole community as they explore the potential of application of these new cloud technologies for environmental science.

Where to next?

Emerging technologies offer many opportunities and solutions for environmental science. Big Data initiatives are set to provide the infrastructure and software capabilities within the UK to realise these benefits. A strategic international approach for areas such as legal and security standards is necessary to maintain the pace of development. Inevitably, it will be the users that drive progress. If new initiatives are to succeed, it will require the committed skills and enthusiasm of the environmental science community as it adopts new ways of thinking and working.