Meetings >> Report of CEON Planning meeting >> CEON's Focus

Section 4.4: What scope, questions and measurements should CEON encompass?

The development of CEON to date has aimed to draw feedback from a broad range of research, interest and stakeholder groups. Whilst this non-exclusionary approach is fundamental to the long term success of a network such as CEON, there is a danger that such an approach can lead to an unfocused activity base that lacks the potential for integration and consolidation of effort. This is especially the case when the scientific scope and rational crosses disciplinary, international, social and cultural boundaries. The aims of this session were to entice community input and explore the disciplinary breadth and depth CEON might encompass. The session began with overview talks by Bjorn Johns and Bill Heal and was followed by a group discussion mediated by Terry Callaghan, which included a sub-group breakout activity.

Overview Presentations:
Distributing standardized field instrumentation that can be accessed remotely has the potential to greatly improve near real time access to data, standardization of methods and the potential for integration of observational time series between sites. An example of such instrumentation is a survey grade Global Positioning System (GPS). Bjorn Johns, representing UNAVCO a private non-profit organization that supports high precision scientific GPS applications to NSF and NASA researchers in the US, gave an overview of GPS technologies. GPS technologies can greatly enhance local scientific activities such as the precise three dimensional locations of sites for management purposes, coastal bluffs in erosion studies and the absolute location of surfaces subject to heaving with freeze-thaw dynamics. Regionally or globally, appropriate GPS technologies have the potential to monitor tectonic plate dynamics and atmospheric chemistry. There are now suitable technical capabilities that allow GPS data to be telemetered from remote localities, quality checked and made available to users on a near real time basis. As an example of a standardized and robust technology, GPS instrumentation can provide networks like CEON with:

  • A common reference frame for spatial data exchange.
  • A centralized user-friendly, on-line data archive.
  • Data with a standardized format.
  • Utilities applicable to a number of disciplines spanning local to global scales of interest.
The development and implementation of CEON has a great deal to learn and benefit from existing networks by analyzing what makes them function cohesively, efficiently and sustainably. Bill Heal provided an overview of attributes that make a network function well, soliciting examples from a wide range of networks. Fundamentally, networks must have precise short to long term goals and clearly define why they are monitoring, what they are monitoring, how they are monitoring, where they are monitoring and when they are monitoring. Ideally, networks must function transparently, include and incorporate the active participation of all partners, be flexible, interactive, communicative, democratic, innovative, and provide stimulus to youth and local peoples. The Science conducted in a network should be question and hypothesis driven, integrate monitoring, manipulations and modeling, be hierarchical in space and time to allow for up-scaling and down-scaling, and ensure intellectual property rights are community based and democratic. Overall, networks should not consider socio-economic connections as add-ons, promote active stakeholder participation, facilitate professional outreach and education, secure base funding and amplify the effects of this as much as possible, and provide mechanisms for regular independent reviews of performance. Measurements should aim to standardize and replicate a core group of parameters and sites that should span a broad range of environmental space encompassing a variety of ecological gradients. Monitoring of parameters across space, time and organization (species to landscapes) requires the utmost level of integration. Heal closed by presenting a quotation from William Waldegrave, when UK minister for the Environment: "Sound science should underpin all environmental policy. The environment cannot speak for itself and we require a clear understanding of its present and future condition to guide its stewardship. Research to improve our understanding for future action is still one of the best precautionary measures".

Group Discussion:
The following summarizes information discussed by breakout groups and plenary group discussions based on an underlying question of: 'What can CEON do that is new, feasible, and vale-adding?' It is important to note that discussion developed along somewhat different lines to the theme pre-listed for this session above. This reflects the positive input from the critical and vocal mass of participants at the meeting responding to the stimulus of the potentially unique opportunity CEON affords in terms of furthering understanding of the Arctic system through international cooperation and multidisciplinary integration.

  • What is CEON?
    CEON is a circumarctic network of science experts and initially terrestrial and freshwater observation platforms (comprised of land and freshwater observatories, infrastructures, local communities and other platforms from which environmental data can be gathered). Positioning of sites is acknowledged as being critical in order to from linkages to atmospheric, coastal and marine observatories. CEON should not be regarded as a network of networks, but instead a network of sites which may be partnered to other more regionally or disciplinary focused networks.
  • What is the mission of CEON?
    To strengthen the capacity for emerging monitoring, research and policy needs at high northern latitudes by making data available that is adequate and suitable for answering a series of well-defined key scientific questions and uncertainties.
  • The Objectives of CEON are to provide and facilitate:
    • Access to data and information.
    • Access to facilities.
    • Mobility of researchers.
    • Adequate coverage of common and standardized observations.
    • Up-scaling of site specific observations.
    • Adequate coverage of regional observatories.
    • Education and communication.
    • Support for circum-arctic, regional and global thematic research programs.
    • Parameterization and validation of models and remote sensing.
    • Exploitation of data archives, proxies and re-occupation of abandoned sites.
    • Rapid responses to environmental emergencies.
    • Development and testing of methodologies and sensors.
    • Testing and development of ecological (and other disciplinary) theory.
  • What should CEON do with respect to improving/facilitating:
    • Access to data and information?
      • Establish accessible meta-databases.
      • Make existing data more accessible.
      • Make CEON data accessible.
      • Construct site/facilities descriptions and project catalogues.
      • Create partnerships with modelers, statistical and meta-analysis experts, time series analysis experts and data holders to synthesize, integrate, and visualize data.
      • Establish a CEON bibliography.
    • Access to facilities?
      • Encourage/ensure broad access to CEON facilities.
    • Mobility of researchers?
      • Ensure that researchers working at multiple sites within CEON have priority for access at any one site.
      • Collaborate to seek funding for trans-national access
    • Adequate coverage of common and standardized observations?
      • Build on existing observations e.g. SCANNET, IPA, SEARCH etc.
      • Evaluate existing observations and develop priorities for implementation.
      • Improve the coverage of existing observations at some sites.
      • Initiate new observations at all sites.
      • Improve the standardization of all observations.
      • Improve the quality control of all observations.
      • Be responsive to the needs of thematic programs, and the modeling and remote sensing communities.
      • Develop methodology appropriate to questions being asked and with respect to the scales of space, time and organization (e.g. background dynamics and fluctuations).
    • Up-scaling of site specific observations?
      • Explore techniques for up-scaling/down-scaling including working in partnership with the modeling community.
      • Relate the dynamics of species across local to regional spatial scales.
    • Coverage of regional observatories?
      • Identify gaps in coverage of climate, environmental and land use gradients.
      • Encourage establishment of appropriate observation platforms to fill these gaps.
    • Education and communication?
      • Increase awareness of key results in a range of forum spanning scientific publications to policy documents.
      • Collaborate with the University of the Arctic and other agencies to develop, enhance and provide training programs.
    • Support for circum-arctic, regional and global thematic research programs?
      • Invite suggestions for liaison with current developments in thematic programs such as AMAP, CAFF, IGBP, IPA, IPS, and IASC projects and assessment initiatives such as ACIA and IPCC.
      • Provide collaborative support that facilitates partnerships between observatories and networks of experts.
    • Parameterization and validation of models and remote sensing?\
      • Provide information to the modeling community necessary for parameterization, validation and improvement of environmental models in the Arctic.
      • Provide network platforms for the application, validation and correction of remote sensing products.
    • Exploitation of data archives, paleo proxies and abandoned sites etc?
      • Explore the availability of unutilized but relevant data, photographs, sites etc.
      • Develop and apply methods to create time series proxies from archived materials, e.g. treeline photographs, herbarium specimens etc.
    • Rapid response to environmental emergencies?
      • Provide an observational network that encompasses standardized approaches and established time series observations to build upon.
    • Development and testing of methodologies and sensors?
      • Advertise CEON to engineers, global programs and industry and foster the application of new technologies in place of time consuming or inaccurate measurements reliant on subjectivity.
    • Testing and development of ecological (and other disciplines) theory?
      • Encourage theorists to utilize CEON to collect unique or complementary datasets.
    • What approach should CEON adopt for its development?
      • Stepwise - the first steps should be associated with making use of existing sites/ecosystems and monitoring efforts. Further steps should involve the development of new sites/activities based on the capacity of the network to answer key scientific questions at any given time. These questions should have significant input from other research/monitoring consortia with prioritized input from AMAP, ACIA, IGBP and others mentioned above.
      • The data assimilation system should be regarded as overarching. Underpinning this effort should be a series of scientific themes that include both measurement and modeling based questions relating to key questions and uncertainties.
      • Explore schemes for extrapolating data from different sources into a format useful for the validation of landscape and larger scale models and remote sensing.
      • Implement new data assimilation and acquisition where key gaps are identified within the framework of the defined questions and uncertainties.
      • Adopt a system of site hierarchies, whereby intensive and extensive sites and high/low precision instrumentation can be incorporated. Such a system provides mechanisms for justifying site upgrades to funding agencies.
      • Promote on and off-site partnerships to CEON, including logistic operators, data centers etc.
      • Maintain the initial wave of energy and host an annual meeting/forum for the convention of CEON partners and stakeholders.