Lead NCAR’s Data Stewardship and Engineering Team

To support a large and expanding scientific community, NCAR has been openly sharing a significant amount of its digital assets, including publications, data sets, software applications, and models. Spread across the organization, these various digital assets support the atmospheric and related sciences needs of universities, NCAR, and the broader geosciences community. User surveys have confirmed the value of these digital assets and indicated that broader and easier access would be helpful. These findings – along with federal and agency mandates for open data sharing – have prompted NCAR to create the Data Stewardship Engineering Team (DSET).

DASH tools and services
Organized by the NCAR Directorate, the Data Stewardship Engineering Team (DSET) produced the Digital Asset Services Hub (DASH). DASH’s foundational tools and services shown in this diagram were designed and created through collaborations between software engineers, scientists, and data curators from each NCAR lab, UCAR Community Programs, and the NCAR Library. Dimmed text elements indicate future features.


With membership from each NCAR Laboratory, the NCAR Library, and UCAR Community Programs, DSET is tasked with designing and implementing an integrated system to allow comprehensive search and discovery of digital assets across the organization. The IT implementation has adhered to community-recognized metadata standards, integrated across existing data services systems, and will augment systems that are underutilized and may not have the operational capabilities to preserve digital assets for the long term.

Digital assets provided by DSET developments will greatly improve the experience of our broad and growing user community. We expect our users to offer recommendations and guidance that will enhance the system. Successful completion of the goals will also lay the foundation for collaborations outside NCAR, which include Internet interoperable (machine-to-machine) access to more data, and the federation and sharing of NCAR resources with peer organizations and research communities like those organizing around EarthCube efforts.

The Digital Asset Services Hub (DASH) is the online system dedicated to supporting data providers and enabling wider access and discovery of digital assets at NCAR. In FY2017, DASH Consulting Services began offering guidance on writing data management plans, data management training seminars, assignment of digital object identifiers (DOIs), and in-person assistance using digital assets at NCAR (datahelp@ucar.edu). This significantly advances NCAR’s compliance with Federal mandates for accessing publically funded research outputs.

Also in FY2017, DASH’s foundational metadata effort established the NCAR Dialect, which is an accepted and applied organization-wide ISO-based metadata standard. To ensure input consistency and integrity, new tools and workflows are now being used to create digital asset metadata records based on the NCAR Dialect. The records are made available via DASH Search (http://data.ucar.edu) – a web-accessible registry – for accurate search and discovery of NCAR digital assets as described by their metadata records. All NCAR Labs, the Library, and some UCP entities have provided metadata records. Once records are discovered, users can follow a URL link to gain access to the digital asset.

This growing registry will soon include most of the digital assets identified by a recent comprehensive survey. Here a digital asset is defined as software, publications, documentation, model codes, and sets of data files that are managed as a single entity or collection. The DASH search capability reached beta-level completeness and was exposed for broad review and user feedback at end-FY2017. The user interface for DASH search has undergone several usability assessments leading to many appearance and functionality changes to better meet community expectations and needs. Some early progress has been made in the development of the DASH repository that is intended to augment, not replace, existing Lab-supported digital asset repositories (e.g., Research Data Archive, OpenSky, EOL Data Management and Services, etc.). DSET will continue developing the DASH Repository, which is designed for long-term sustainability and will operate as a trusted facility for archiving and preserving NCAR digital assets that will pass audit and certification standards (e.g. TRAC 2007, Data Seal of Approval, 2016). The technical infrastructure for the DASH repository is currently in the scoping and assessment phase.

The DSET and DASH development are supported by NSF Core and $250K one-time NSF funds.