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SGCI Helped Grow Data Discovery Studio With Implementation of Technologies and by Offering Guidance in Usability, Security, and Marketing

"Data Discovery Studio's goal is to make it easier for scientists to find and use the data they need. SGCI has helped this platform grow in usability, security, and outreach to users and communities to meet their needs. The platform improvements enable scientists using it to be more effective in accessing, exploring, and doing more with data."

Ouida Meier

Program Data Manager

Data Discovery Studio

DataDiscoveryStudio.org (DDStudio) is a geoportal that currently holds over 1.6 million records. What the gateway offers geoscientists and other researchers is a set of ingested records from some of the most valuable and frequently used data sets—all in one place—making it easy to search across many repositories to acquire the data they need. DDStudio, an NSF-funded EarthCube project, provides a platform for discovery, enabling scientists to discover data sets they didn’t know they needed, including the ability to explore the data using Jupyter notebooks, organize datasets into thematic collections, contribute additional datasets, suggest metadata edits, and review semantic enhancements that have been automatically added to data descriptions to improve discovery. Consequently, their tagline: “Beyond Search.”

The DDStudio team wanted to get the word out about this invaluable resource, which is why their first engagement with SGCI was with marketing consultants. The SGCI team worked with DDStudio to develop a communications strategy, including the creation of a branding guide and a new logo, improved designs and messaging for promotional materials, social media guidance, and the development of an elevator pitch to succinctly convey what DDStudio offers. Ilya Zaslavsky is Director of the Spatial Information Systems Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and PI of the DDStudio project. When reflecting on the marketing engagement, he said, “I love the idea of translating what gets done for corporations—and what they would spend an enormous amount of money on—to open science and the public sector. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of those same marketing skills and approaches?”

The DDStudio team found the engagement with the marketing team to be so beneficial that they decided to also pursue consultations in usability, cybersecurity, and developer support. The usability consultants provided design advice to ensure that those without computational backgrounds could easily utilize the DDStudio gateway. They did this by generating recommendations based on user interviews, heuristic evaluation, competitive analysis, mockups, and usability testing. From the cybersecurity consultants, the DDStudio team received a thorough review of security practices for their systems and code and received a report with recommendations for improvements. Finally, SGCI developers implemented consistent authorization across DDStudio components, and have also developed additional Jupyter notebooks for geoscience data types. 

"We had a warm, supportive feeling from the SGCI crew. When you work with somebody who is nice and helps you, it’s so much better than the other way. Also, the fact that there is some structure in the interactions helps a lot. We had regular meetings that kept everyone on track."
—Ilya Zaslavsky, PI, DDStudio

“What struck me about every interaction with SGCI consultants was their professionalism and friendliness. Also, the fact that we took the time to create a work plan at the beginning of each engagement that clearly outlined what each person is bringing to the table and committing to was very helpful. These components made for intensive work that was productive,” commented Ouida Meier, Program Data Manager at DDStudio. Zaslavsky added, “We had a warm, supportive feeling from the SGCI crew. When you work with somebody who is nice and helps you, it’s so much better than the other way. Also, the fact that there is some structure in the interactions helps a lot. We had regular meetings that kept everyone on track.”

With about 1,000 unique users per month, DDStudio has found itself well-positioned to continue to grow the gateway. Depending on funding changes, this could take a few different directions, including making the data on DDStudio available to even more research communities by integrating with similar systems. For example, DDStudio is being linked to DataMed, a health data discovery system indexing 2.3 million biomedical datasets, in a project that focuses on environmental health with the COVID-19 pandemic as one of its use cases. Incorporating community metadata standards based on JSON Linked Data (JSON-LD) and schema.org/Dataset is another key direction. Because schema.org markup is automatically generated for DDStudio metadata records, 900,000 of the records are already indexed by Google and appear in Google Dataset Search results.

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