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The iMarine e-infrastructure: integrating technologies to unlock knowledge on marine living resources

iMarine, supported by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme, aims to unlock knowledge and offer services to improve fisheries management and the conservation of marine living resources. Marine scientists and policy makers need instant access to reliable data in order to meet the high demands of the ecosystem approach to fisheries and the conservation of marine living resources. This is essential to foster better understanding and improve governance. To produce these reliable data, researchers need to apply complex models to analyse multidisciplinary data. They face huge challenges in managing the differences in data formats and temporal and spatial scales. This puts a high demand not only on the computational resources, but also on the scientists collecting, preparing and curating their datasets. To support these community tasks, iMarine provides an advanced e-Infrastructure offering Virtual Research Environments. The e-infrastructure is both user-friendly and flexible, with resources made available ‘on demand’.

iMarine offers a smart, efficient and cost-effective approach by integrating existing technologies and resources that capitalise on EU investments in e-infrastructures. Integration ranges from grid and cloud computational service provision to biodiversity, climate and environmental data access and through interoperability with resources such as GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility), OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System), and the FAO-FI reporting schema. The dynamic provision of Virtual Research Environments plays a fundamental role in connecting the growing iMarine community of practice.

gCube – A key Enabling Technology - Over the past ten months, iMarine technology partners have made it their job to leverage and improve existing technologies and tools, first and foremost, the gCube software system as a key enabling technology. The gCube added value lies in its ability to ensure seamless access to different technological resources, which together provide a hybrid data infrastructure. Specialised gCube applications with functionalities to manage, process and visualise scientific data are accessible through the iMarine Gateway, a common interface designed to provide user communities with a comprehensive tool-box.

gCube delivers a feature-rich e-infrastructure that provides the complete management of a large array of data types. It enables geospatial resources management through access to PostgreSQL/PostGIS, Geoserver, GeoNetwork, and THREDDS and WPS for geospatial data processing. It also enables the integration of OpenSDMX to support statistical data access and transfer. Other advantages of gCube include the provision of a complete platform for tabular data management and the availability of R for tabular data analysis; simplified access to Hadoop for data processing. Other examples are environments that offer species distribution algorithms such as AquaMaps and support for the publication of fact-sheets and aggregated species information.

Ensuring economies of scale through shared services is one of the distinguishing features of a gCube based infrastructure. The gCube software system was designed to make the same service instance available to multiple communities, reducing both deployment and operational costs. iMarine has improved the gCube technology for VRE development by focusing on a functionality-oriented approach that simplifies the specification phase. More emphasis has been placed on common requirements behind VRE operation in terms of core services needed so that more VREs can be operated using shared service instances. Flexibility is another key concept. For example, the 2nd generation Resource Model now supports a more flexible characterisation of resources, including computational resources, services and data with dynamically defined facets.

iMarine is a shining example of a service oriented approach to delivering and operating an e-infrastructure that supports a smarter and more responsible approach to fisheries management. Pasquale Pagano, iMarine Technical Director & CNR-ISTI - Italy explained, “iMarine’s innovative approach not only reduces the operational costs of applications but also improves legacy application quality of service without incurring large reimplementation costs. At the same time it enhances application capabilities”.

Ease of Use - Integration and Interoperability Facilities - iMarine is also driving forward a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) approach to enable its specialist communities and facilitate wider uptake. By transforming complex platforms into a service, practitioners can benefit from data management capacities and information retrieval capacities on a ready-to-use basis. iMarine also supports a swift integration of web applications.

Eye on the future - iMarine is a demonstration of the leading role that Europe is playing in supporting a global community to achieve responsible and sustainable use of marine living resources. iMarine is transforming traditional approaches to data sharing and knowledge development by leveraging value-add technologies and optimising the use of the internet.”, said Yde de Jong, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands & iMarine Board member. Future work will focus on extending iMarine’s compelling portfolio of both services and enabling technologies, for example bringing on board new data set providers. New releases of innovative frameworks promoting data integration, enrichment and manipulation at large scale will be key milestones for the coming months.

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About iMarine

iMarine (www.i-marine.eu|info@i-marine.eu) is funded by the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme. iMarine brings together a Consortium with a proven track record in e-infrastructures, marine science, biodiversity and policy, including GEIE ERCIM (France), Italian National Research Council – CNR (Italy), National and KapodistrianUniversity of Athens (Greece), CERN (Switzerland), Engineering (Italy), Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece), Terradue (Italy), Trust-IT Services Ltd (UK), FAO, Fishbase Information and Research Group (Philippines), UNESCO, Centro de Referentia en Informacao Ambiental – CRIA (Brazil) and Institut de Recerche pour le Developpement – IRD (France). Observers supporting iMarine are Flanders Marine Institute (Belgium), SPECIES 2000 (UK) and NEAFC. The project’s strategic objectives are supported by the iMarine Board, helping to define a governance model, technical and policy recommendations, and an Advisory Council, chartered with championing the ecosystem approach and providing guidance on the business cases.

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