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Presentation at AGU Fall Meeting 2018: Large-scale, global geochemical data syntheses like EarthChem and GEOROC have, for nearly two decades, inspired and made possible a vast range of scientific studies and new discoveries, facilitating the analysis and mining of geochemical data and creating new paradigms in geochemical data analysis such as statistical geochemistry. These syntheses provide easy access to fully integrated compilations of thousands of datasets (‘data fusion’) with millions of geochemical measurements that are accompanied by comprehensive and harmonized metadata for context and provenance to search, filter, sort, and evaluate the data.
The syntheses have been assembled and maintained through manual labor by data managers, who extract data and metadata from text, tables, and supplements of publications for inclusion in the databases, a time-consuming task due to the multitude of data formats, units, normalizations, vocabularies, etc., i.e. lack of best practices for geochemical data reporting. In order to support and advance future science endeavors that rely on access to and analysis of large volumes of geochemical data, we need to develop and implement global standards for geochemical data that not only make geochemical data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable), but ready for data fusion. As more geochemical data systems are emerging at national, programmatic, and subdomain levels in response to Open Access policies and science needs, standard protocols for exchanging geochemical data among these systems will need to be developed, implemented, and governed.
Critical is the alignment with existing standards such as the Semantic Sensor Network (SSN) ontology, a recent joint W3C and OGC standard that standardizes description of sensors, observation, sampling, and actuation, with sufficient flexibility to allow details of these elements to be defined in different domains. New initiatives within the International Council for Science and CODATA are working towards coordinating the International Science Unions to identify and endorse the more authoritative standards (including vocabularies and ontologies). These initiatives present a timely opportunity for geochemical data to ensure that they are born ‘connected’ within and across disciplines.