Most of us have a box or two of old photos tucked away somewhere. We may dig through them now and then but mostly they just sit in their boxes. Or maybe we have the modern equivalent: a hard drive full of digital photos that are just as forgotten and much less accessible.
The data that water stewardship groups collect is much like the latter – tucked away on a hard drive waiting for someone to look at it. This is not to say it has no value. Quite the contrary. In terms of data, more is better for measuring change and providing meaningful analysis.
But what if BWS data were available to the wider world? What if researchers at the provincial level or even the global level could access our data? The story of our local creeks could be part of a wider trend and our data could help add weight to the findings. Or, alternatively, maybe our creeks are unique in some way. This could point to areas of new research to figure out why.
BWS has been searching for a home for our data that would make it more accessible to the wider world. Our criteria included a secure, stable website that would display the data and allow researchers to download datasets. Further, the site must adhere to open data standards. This means the data can be used by anyone, without restrictions or costs. We recently found a site that meets our requirements. We are now in the process of formatting and uploading our precious data. The website is called DataStream and it is run by the Gordon Foundation, “a charitable organization dedicated to protecting Canada’s water and empowering Canada’s North”. The DataStream platform is billed as “open access and built with communities, policy-makers and researchers in mind.” Their mission is to “promote knowledge sharing and advance collaborative water stewardship”. While we are sold on DataStream, we aren’t the only ones. The federal government, several provincial governments, including BC, and many stewardship groups, large and small, are using DataStream for publishing environmental data.
The data on DataStream is available to anyone with an internet connection. You can see our first batch of data for yourself. Go to the story “BWS Stream Data Has Gone National” on our website, beaufortwater.org.
Having a central repository for our data is convenient. Having a secure repository is comforting. And having a repository that is designed from the ground up as a tool for research and decision making is satisfying indeed.
When family comes for a visit and we’re feeling nostalgic, we may still dig out that box of old photos. But if our family wants to do some research around the dissolved oxygen levels or specific conductivity in our local streams, we can now point them to DataStream.