* A platform to facilitate environmental data driven research and observation *
Climate Watch is a community effort to multiply the value of Open Environmental Data. It integrates and enriches Open Environmental Data and makes them usable for everyone, creating an ecosystem, connecting stakeholders and developing value-add services.
Climate Watch came about when some of us with background in data and software and experience in journalism turned to data driven research to publish environmental stories. We realized that locating, processing, integrating, interpreting and using environmental data is a dirty, hand-crafted job that needs an incredibly wide array of skills and is harder than it should be.
So we put our skills, enthusiasm and experience to good use, joining forces and distilling them in the shape of a Software-as-a-Service platform that can facilitate environmental data-driven research.
More data, easier access, better and more stories in less time and without the pain, that's what we're out to achieve. We limit the time and resources needed to investigate environmental issues, but more importantly, we make a difference by helping get the environmental word out.
* The problem *
Climate Change is one of the biggest issues the world is facing. It seems we are finally entering the part where decision makers are trying to align and do something about it.
In this effort, data plays a crucial part for everyone involved. Data can help us understand the implications of actions taken and choices made, and we need them to keep track of enforcement and effects of actions such as the Paris Agreement. Data can also help researchers make progress towards understanding and mitigating climate change.
The problem however seems to be that although we have loads of data, it’s not enough. They are not always accessible, they are scattered and fragmented, in formats hard to read and utilize and they require expert knowledge to interpret.
And things become even more complicated when seeking local and timely data, and when attempting to work with different data sets. Climate Watch is developing and advocating the use of a platform to utilize existing open data, enrich it via crowdsourcing and offer value-add services.
* Our approach *
Climate Watch is an ongoing effort to build the platform we can use to tell the story that gave birth to this initiative: we take a shot at decomposing a high-level initiative such as the Paris Agreement into measurable indicators we can keep track of, see how these indicators have evolved through time and how they are related with everyday facts such as pollution from car emissions.
What we do is that we collect existing datasets in obscure formats and parse them to a combination of GeoJSON + JSON-LD, link them, add domain-specific knowledge by means of a user-friendly SaaS platform that facilitates discovery, navigation, analysis and correlation of environmental data. We complement that data with streaming data via crowdsourcing in the same format, store them in our database and use them them to power our own application for data-driven research, as well as make them available for utilization by 3rd parties.
Climate Watch has already earned a number of distinctions, including being a finalist in the EU Diplohack competition, the NASA Space Apps Challenge, the EU Climate Launchpad (ongoing) and the EU Social Impact Award (ongoing).
* Data Model *
Data is at the core of our approach, so getting it right is important. We want to facilitate reuse for open environmental data. In order to do this, we follow the Linked Open Data approach, which means that we:
a. have been developing our data model by reusing standards that people can refer to, making it approachable for everyone
b. are integrating data from different sources, linking them to increase their value
c. make data available in open standard formats, so that others may easily reuse them too
The main data model we have been using is the W3C Semantic Sensor Network ontology. This model describes key concepts related to sensor data, which is the low-level data that we are managing. In order to describe additional concepts related to organizations and people involved in Open Environmental Data, we use the schema.org data model. Our main source of data so far has been Airbase, the European Environmental Agency dataset on Air Quality.
We are all about increasing the value and reusability of Open Environmental Data, which means going from data in documents and closed formats that live in silos to data in open formats that live in databases and are linked. Increasing the value of data means making them 5-star. On the other hand however, we want to have our data in a format that developers are familiar with and tools can support. This is why we chose to go with GeoJSON and JSON-LD.
GeoGSON is an extension of JSON, the de-facto standard for web and mobile applications, that can be used to represent GeoSpatial data. JSON-LD is an extension of JSON that enables anchoring of concepts to Linked Data models, making JSON data part of the Linked Open Data cloud.