The science of informatics is a big part of what IMPACT does within the field of the Earth sciences. But what is informatics? Is it just another word for information technology? Is it about information processing? Is it simply a focus on information systems or information science? A review of the literature on informatics easily returns any of the above concepts. But what does informatics mean practically as IMPACT implements it to benefit Earth science researchers?

The best way to demonstrate IMPACT’s approach to informatics is to allow the members of the informatics team to speak for themselves. We asked our team members to define what informatics means to them. This post summarizes some of the common themes that emerged.

IMPACT Informatics team members emphasize the importance of focusing on the connection to end users, including Earth system scientists and interdisciplinary users. Some of their responses include:

Informatics demands a focus on the user.

Danielle Groenen

The methods of informatics makes data easier to find and use for everyone at all levels, supporting and inspiring more people to use data to do cool stuff.

Ge Peng

Informatics makes it easier for users to discover, access, and utilize quality-controlled data and information.

Katrina Virts

Informatics advances science by helping people find, understand, and apply the data they need. The application of informatics addresses the data issues I encounter as a scientist.

Aaron Kaulfus

Informatics is the practice and process of compiling, organizing, and preserving data and research records with a focus on supporting the end user. Informatics practitioners try to consider the difficulties researchers face in doing science and what can be done to address those difficulties through practical and efficient processes.

A second common facet of IMPACT’s approach to informatics found in the team member is an emphasis on the need to increase access to Earth science data and deliver that data efficiently and in a way that enhances its value to the user.

Information delivery must facilitate information use.

Deborah Smith

The science of informatics is focused on finding the best way to effectively organize and share data information in order to increase the use and value of data.

Stephen McNeal

Informatics is about improving the quality and increasing the distribution and understanding of data and metadata so that end users can easily access and use the data.

Stephanie Wingo

Informatics is the art of making data and information more valuable by increasing efficiency for its dissemination and use, especially in the domains of science and life.

Bradley Baker

Informatics entails the process of making quality data and related information easily accessible and understandable to end users. The end goal is to reduce and hopefully eliminate any associated frustrations with finding and accessing this information.

However, the informatics team members understand that the application of informatics must go beyond efficient data delivery. Given the ever-increasing volume of Earth science data, increasing the efficacy of data delivery only has value if the right data is provided for the user research context.

In a flood of data, informatics matches the appropriate data with the user.

Jeanné le Roux

The science of informatics incorporates systems and methods that ease the pursuit of knowledge. Informatics focuses on delivering critical information quickly in a time of knowledge overload.

Samuel Ayers

The science of informatics is about understanding how people interact with data. Informatics works to make data more accessible by aligning it with the context of the user.

Camille Woods

The effective application of informatics points users to the information they need in a timely manner. More importantly, it points users to the correct information in the most efficient way possible.

In essence, the informatics team is tasked with delivering on IMPACT’s mission of empowering open science and applications by integrating data, technology, and people together. They ask the question: “How can we ensure users find the right data for their problem?” The team works hard to meet the challenge.

More information about IMPACT can be found at NASA Earthdata and the IMPACT project website.

This is the unofficial blog of the Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team.

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