This is the first of a series of essays that will help build a “Space Data Knowledge Commons”. It describes a specific project, the Heliophysics KNOWledge Network (Helio-KNOW), that illustrates why space data requires better connection and an improved data, resource, and community infrastructure. This series of essays will grow to include other examples. Please treat this series as a conversation – you are invited to comment directly on this document or to participate in the Helio-KNOW project.
The world is increasingly interconnected and complex. The information our world now collects has placed discovery at our fingertips, but ironically the sheer amount of data (the volume, the heterogeneity, their sources) is a crippling deluge. How do we better handle this information overload and instead fully harness the potential of these data?
Our technological and physical expansion into space embodies the increasing interconnections between Earth and the space environment and indeed the technologies that texture our daily lives. Our flourishing as a society increasingly depends on learning how to integrate our data about space.
The field of Heliophysics is the combinatorial domain focused on understanding the interaction between a star and the planets and their environments (and potential life) that orbit it. It requires bringing together threads of science which have long been separated by artificial boundaries of funding and academic labels . Heliophysics has its most immediate impact on our planet and our daily lives, an application of which has become colloquially known as ‘space weather.’ To fully understand space weather, knowledge and data from fields as diverse as solar physics to electrical engineering is required .
There is a mounting demand for intelligent and accessible Heliophysics data infrastructure and the platform to use it. However, the problem is constantly evolving such that there is currently no clear solution about how to create such a community resource.
A visual layout of a knowledge organization system for Heliophysics/space physics data and community is shown in Figure 1, along with the revealing pain points and technologies that exist to address specific portions of the system.
The Heliophysics KNOWledge Network (Helio-KNOW) is the collection of software and systems to better structure Heliophysics information, and the commons built on top of it for the community to discuss ideas and further collaboration . Helio-KNOW is the technological framework for a more informed, participatory, and collaborative Heliophysics community.
However, the challenge to create sophisticated knowledge discovery systems is as much cultural as it is technical. Helio-KNOW thus also addresses the need for not only the data infrastructure, but the cultural infrastructure, too. The combination forms a knowledge commons framework: a combination of intelligent information representation with openness, governance, and trust required to create a participatory ecosystem whereby the whole community maintains and evolves the shared space together. The ethos of the Helio-KNOW project is openness and embraces practices from the budding field of open science as the means to create a flourishing knowledge commons for Heliophysics data.
We believe that Helio-KNOW can be an example from which to build a collection of projects that requires a more intelligent space data knowledge infrastructure. Please participate in this discussion by relating your project as a conversation around this essay.