Dr. Sean Gillon of Marylhurst University is one of a handful of researchers invited to a workshop to explore synthesizing data to answer complex research questions about food, energy and water.
Data can provide the answers to many of the world’s problems, if only we knew exactly what data we needed, how to get to it, and how to connect this data point with that data point to gain a greater understanding of the problem to be solved.
Issues in the areas of food, energy and water are particularly in need of addressing, and these interconnected systems are increasingly complex. To help move us toward the solutions, the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) created the Data to Motivate Synthesis platform. The DTMS platform presently incorporates 300 federal agency datasets, mostly from data.gov. Partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Geological Survey help identify and add new datasets.
For now, the new DTMS platform can only be accessed through facilitated, in-person workshops. A handful of early-career researchers from academia, the public sector, non-governmental organizations and private enterprise whose work focuses on U.S. food, energy and water research were invited to participate in the first Data to Motivate Synthesis workshop in February 2018.
Dr. Sean Gillon of Marylhurst University is one of the researchers invited to Annapolis to explore this new way to access and synthesize data sources, both as an individual researcher and as part of a team. Early pilot workshops indicate that interdisciplinary teams using the DTMS platform are able to identify new data, questions and frameworks around their research.
The DTMS platform is designed to allow individual researchers to explore and discover data in domains with which they are familiar as well as areas outside of their expertise. Linkages built into the interface allow individual researchers to come together in small groups to identify overlap in their areas of interest. These interdisciplinary teams can then articulate specific research questions driven by available data as well as a shared conceptual framework.
If successful, the DTMS project will both motivate and support new and innovative research in the interconnected areas of food, energy and water.
Sean Gillon is assistant professor and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary and Liberal Arts at Marylhurst University. He has conducted a wide range of interdisciplinary research related to social and environmental politics and policy in the U.S. food system.