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Continuation Proposal 2017

Proposal for Funding for Years 3 & 4 (July 2017 - June 2019)


Building on the successes of the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Data Project in its first two years, we propose a two-year investment of $150,000 - $180,000 per year total, depending on the number of participating institutions (currently there are ten participating BTAA institutions, with prospects of expanding to twelve). The next two years will solidify operations of an established and sustainable production service and will direct attention towards exploring a strategic expansion in scope.

Goals Summary

For Years 3 & 4, we propose the following goals (see detailed descriptions below) to guide new development of program areas, in addition to continued support and refinement of established operations:

  1. Sustainability -- Develop a sustainable model for service operations
  2. Collection Development -- Grow the collection of geospatial metadata guided by the development of collection development policies and planning
  3. Geospatial metadata outreach and education -- Leverage expertise within the project to grow expertise in the broader GIS community
  4. Strategic Planning -- Assess potential areas of strategic expansion in scope and establish our role in the larger geospatial metadata ecosystem

Project Context

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal is one of a handful of geoportals maintained by academic institutions across the United States. Others include OpenGeoportal, Earthworks, and NYU Spatial Data Repository. As of January 2017, the BTAA project has contributed over 4,400 metadata records to OpenGeoMetadata, a large-scale aggregation of geospatial metadata from many different institutions (see a detailed current project summary in Appendix A). By participating in the broader geospatial metadata ecosystem, these records can now be utilized by other geoportals to allow discovery and access for geospatial data resources from eight states within the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

As the project unfolds, a preservation dimension for these data is emerging. The BTAA Geospatial Data Task Force, as well as the broader GeoBlacklight community, see a need for archiving, preservation, and access for at-risk geospatial data resources. These born digital resources are not being systematically archived by the government agencies that produce the data, as their mission is to provide researchers, citizens, and other users with access to the most recent data. As government funding remains flat or declines, recent historical data are often at risk of being lost. Locally produced research data may have continuing research value, but data producers lack a scalable preservation solution. Developing a preservation solution for these data will require significant additional resources and, potentially, collaboration with a broader group of stakeholders, and is therefore a possible future strategic direction that will take time to explore.

Detailed Project Goals

Years 3 & 4 (July 2017 - June 2019)

Finalization of Year 4 goals is expected to be informed by findings and deliberations in Year 3 and will be presented to BTAA Library Directors in early 2018.

1. Sustainability

1. Develop a Sustainable, Strategic Plan (Year 3)

A key outcome for year three is a plan to sustain the project within its current scope as an established production service. This will include planning for long-term project sustainability, laying out options for baseline maintenance of the geoportal. An additional outcome will be identifying possible new strategic goals that leverage the collaborative's expertise, infrastructure, and data aggregation.

This strategic goal-setting will consider archiving and preservation of “at-risk” geospatial data for states represented by the Big Ten Academic Alliance, including the technical infrastructure to make the data sets available via GeoServer or similar. Archiving and preservation of data would also likely necessitate engagement and relationship development with data producers. Additional funding would likely be necessary for a strategic goal involving archiving and preservation.

Focused discussions on strategic goals will take place at a Project Summit (attended by the project Task Force) in late Summer or early Fall 2017. The feedback from the first Project Summit (Fall 2015) was overwhelmingly positive and demonstrated the combined interest in the project from across the BTAA. Participants were energized and excited by the summit and enthusiastic about future work on the project. A second in-person meeting of the entire Task Force will include these objectives:

  • Outline options for a sustainable plan for Year 3 and beyond
  • Outline options for a strategic plan for beyond Year 3
  • Evaluate successes, failures, and lessons learned
  • Engage in training and skill building for Task Force members
  • Enhance relationships and community building within the Task Force

Lead: Proposed Strategic Leadership Group (see 4a below) with the addition of someone with sustainability planning experience (from one of the member institutions).

2. Maintain and Support Current Activities (Year 3 & Year 4)

Though much of the initial work has been done, activities to maintain and sustain the Geoportal going forward will involve:

  • Workflow and process improvement and documentation
  • Metadata curation, creation, and coordination for additional data sets
  • Continued promotion and outreach through conference presentations
  • Geoportal interface enhancements and maintenance
  • Ongoing outreach to user communities

Lead: UMN Metadata Coordinator

2. Collection Development

1. Create a collection development policy and strategic plan (Year 3)

Develop a policy and plan for collection growth with a specific focus on defining what constitutes the BTAA geospatial research collection as a comprehensive geospatial data research collection in the context of the broader geospatial metadata ecosystem.

Lead: Task Force Member (To be identified from Collection Development Steering Group)

2. Explore the Integration of Metadata Records for Licensed Data (Year 3)

Task Force members have expressed a high level of interest in adding metadata records to the Geoportal for licensed resources purchased at individual institutions for use by their patrons. Potential inclusion will greatly increase discoverability of these resources, even if access is not available for all users. Exploration will include investigating costs, potential technical challenges involved, how licensed data are hosted at each institution, and the different authentication protocols used at each institution.

Lead: Task Force Member (To be identified from Collection Development or Metadata Steering Group)

3. Integrate Metadata Records for Licensed Data in the Geoportal (Year 4)

If the exploration in Year 3 concludes that integration of licensed data is feasible and supportable within the project budget, implementation would be pursued in Year 4. Should cost exceed currently available budget, implementation will be included in the proposal for year 4 and beyond.

Lead: Task Force Member (Collection Development or Metadata Steering Group)

4. Focus on Unique Data (Year 4)

Focus on making specific sets or collections of data discoverable to the wider research community, with an emphasis on geospatial data pertinent to researchers within the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Possibilities would include Great Lakes data, Agricultural data, and Land Use data.

Lead: Task Force Member (Collection Development Steering Group)

3. Geospatial metadata outreach and education

1. Address Metadata Needs in the Broader GIS Community (Year 3)

Work in this area will include outreach and training for GIS Professionals in order to showcase the need for more complete metadata, encourage the creation of more useful metadata, and show the benefits of better metadata. The outreach and training will focus on current geospatial data producers so that future metadata harvests for ingest into the geoportal would require less metadata remediation by Task Force members.

Lead: UMN Metadata Coordinator

2. Create a lightweight, cloud-based metadata creation tool (Year 4)

Fund programming/development work to create a tool to facilitate low-barrier metadata entry.

Lead: Task Force Member (Metadata Steering Group)

4. Strategic Planning

1. Formation of a Higher Level Strategy Group (Year 3)

Should the BTAA Libraries wish to investigate an expansion in the scope of the Geoportal, the project will require additional expertise and higher level organizational leadership. This proposed Strategic Leadership Group should comprise 2-4 AUL or UL representatives, the UMN Project Lead, and two additional members of the Task Force. The Group will participate in the Year 3 Sustainability planning process, with a particular focus on: developing a Governance Group to provide oversight and decision making to the project in years 4 and beyond, and directing investigations into expansions of project scope.

Lead: UMN Project Lead, in consultation with Project Sponsors

2. Archiving and preservation of at-risk data (Year 4)

One of the major potential expansions of scope is to add capacity to archive and preserve data sets, in addition to their metadata. This could encompass data created by researchers at participating BTAA institutions and/or establish archiving arrangements with external data producers, including local, regional and state government agencies. In addition to assessing the need for and desirability of such an expansion, the planning process will seek to understand both the technical and the administrative resources required.

Lead: UMN Project Lead, in consultation with Project Sponsors

3. Expanded partner relationship with the network of geoportals across the country (Year 3 & Year 4)

As the BTAA Geospatial Data Project grows, the need to collaborate more directly with other academic geoportals across the country will increase. By expanding partner relationships, the project will be able to utilize this broader experience and expertise in order to better inform decision making, sustainability, and strategic planning. Expanded partner relationships may also lead to direct collaboration in the areas of archiving and preservation.

Lead: UMN Project Lead, in consultation with Project Sponsors

Project Budget

Year 3 (July 2017 - June 2018) and Year 4 (July 2018 - June 2019)*

Detailed budget documents available upon request.

Budget Growth

As presented, the budget for Year 3 represents a no-growth option based on the 10 currently participating institutions. With additional participants, the project can expand support for metadata creation (UMN Graduate Assistants); expansion to additional institutions is assumed in the Year 4 budget. Expanded functional scope (preservation, licensed data, etc.) will likely require significant budget expansion; should planning indicate these expansions are desired, they will be included in a revised Year 4 budget proposal.

Additional Institutions

If additional institutions join the project for Year 3 (at a cost of $15,000 each), the additional funding will fund additional conference travel (Collaboration, Promotion & Outreach), and personnel (additional graduate research assistants to work on metadata processing, which would benefit all institutions by both supplementing the variable capacity for participating institutions and providing for work on metadata for data sets that fall outside of scope for participating institutions), as well as software development needs, including development work on GeoBlacklight to implement interface changes recommended by user testing and in collaboration with the broader GeoBlacklight community.

In-Kind Contributions

Aside from the Metadata Coordinator,the UMN Spatial Data Analyst & Curator, and the Project Lead, the aggregate work done by Task Force Members across all participating institutions is equivalent to 1.8 FTE per year (Task Force Members report spending an average of eight hours per week per institution).

The project would also not be operational without the significant work of the Web Development Department at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

The project continues to direct the financial contributions towards enabling the collaboration by means of coordination and technology. Two years into the project, we continue to believe the funding investment catalyzes the aggregated staff investment.

Additional in-kind contributions during new activities, such as outreach to users, strategic planning, and service scope expansion, may be critical to the project’s long term success. A call for participation bringing requisite expertise in support of these activities will likely be made.


Current Project Overview & Summary of Activities (July 2015 - January 2017)

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Data Discovery project supports the creation and aggregation of discovery-focused metadata describing geospatial data resources from participating institutions and makes those resources discoverable via the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal. The project also provides the technology project staffing and infrastructure to host the services.

The project is a collaborative pilot project to provide discoverability, facilitate access, and connect researchers across the Big Ten Academic Alliance to geospatial data resources. Project scope (June 2015 - July 2017) includes:

  • Workflow and process documentation
  • Metadata curation, creation, and coordination
  • Geoportal launch (August 2016)
  • Promotion and outreach through conference presentations
  • Geoportal interface enhancements and maintenance

Geoportal by the Numbers (as of March 2017):

  • 5,412 metadata records in the Geoportal
  • 37,366 pageviews
  • 6,327 sessions
  • 3,995 unique users

BTAA Geospatial Task Force Members (2017):

  • James Whitacre, GIS Specialist - Illinois
  • Jennifer Liss, Monographic Image Cataloging Librarian - Indiana
  • Theresa Quill, Social Sciences Librarian (GIS/Maps) - Indiana
  • Cathy Hodge, Monograph & Cartographic Resources Cataloging Librarian - Iowa
  • Rob Shepard, GIS Specialist - Iowa
  • Kelley O'Neal, GIS, Geography, and Maps Librarian - Maryland
  • Bria Parker, Metadata Librarian - Maryland
  • Mara Blake, Spatial & Numeric Data Librarian - Michigan
  • Tim Utter, Manager, Clark Library - Michigan
  • Kathleen Weessies, Geosciences Librarian - Michigan State
  • Amanda Tickner, GIS Specialist - Michigan State
  • Ryan Mattke, Map & Geospatial Information Librarian - Minnesota
  • Melinda Kernik, Spatial Data Analyst & Curator - Minnesota
  • Karen Majewicz, Geospatial Project Metadata Coordinator - Minnesota
  • Linda Ballinger, Metadata Strategist - Penn State
  • Nathan Piekielek, Geospatial Services Librarian - Penn State
  • Paige Andrew, Maps Cataloging Librarian - Penn State
  • Nicole Kong, GIS Specialist - Purdue
  • Shirley Li, GIS Analyst - Purdue
  • Jaime Martindale, Map and Geospatial Data Librarian - Wisconsin
  • AJ Wortley, State Outreach Specialist - Wisconsin