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Heikkurinen, Matti; Kranzlmüller, Dieter (2016): Environmental computing - applications, tools and data solutions. 2016 IEEE 12th International Conference on e-Science (e-Science), 23-27 October 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
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Environmental computing is becoming a recognized specialty focusing on producing actionable knowledge by advanced environmental modelling. At the moment the environmental computing community shares a tacit understanding of what are the initiatives, tools and approaches that belong to the core scope of this emerging discipline. The environmental computing website[1] has been used as an interim community resource for collecting links to resources that are of relevance to this discipline. The information on the site has been collected using the presentations in environmental computing events (listed at the end of this summary) as starting points, complemented with some targeted desk research efforts. This presentation outlines the first attempts to analyse this initial dataset as a way to identify common topics, initiatives and approaches that could serve as basis for clustering of these initiatives. There are several reasons to attempt to identify commonalities beyond the simple, intuitive categorisation of something being "within the scope of environmental computing". From the pragmatic perspective, commonalities represent opportunities for identifying synergies, either through the reuse of existing tools or through joining forces to solve common problems. The clustering may also identify areas that could serve as links to other disciplines, potentially indicating a need for a special interest group or another sub-specialty. An example of such a case is data management (especially consistent metadata) that is mentioned as an issue on most of the presentations in the environmental computing events. While the data management issues are very closely aligned with the broader "big data" and "open data" research and policy activities, environmental computing data management has probably a distinct scope involving issues that may be specific to environmental computing (e.g. requirements stemming from the environmental computing applications aiming to provide decision support tools in urgent situations). In the longer term, repeating this analysis using a more consistent and comprehensive search approach should help consolidation of the shared body of knowledge of the community. The goal of the presentation is to stimulate discussion on the community approaches and tools that could help the practitioners reach this goal. The challenge in building a shared, common "community hub" is that until the system and the active community around it reaches the critical mass, the efforts needed to add information to the repository and curation of the already stored data will not bring immediate benefits in day-to-day work. Thus a shared vision and roadmap are crucial success factors. The presentation also highlights some of the semantic challenges, e.g. environmental computing organisations that have departments with distinct profiles necessitating a conceptual model that is capable to deal with "nested" entries. Limitations of the commodity tools in keeping track and cross-linking publications, datasets and tools will also be discussed as a topic for further study.