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Long Term Ecological Research Network

Enabling Scientists to Share Data About Environmental Change

Our Client

The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network consists of more than 2,000 scientists, educators, and students conducting research and gathering data to document changes in the environment. LTER is recognized internationally as one of the best organized and most successful groups conducting research in ecology; its 26 research sites are located in the continental U.S., Alaska, Antarctica, and islands in the Caribbean and Pacific and include agricultural lands, alpine tundra, barrier islands, coastal lagoons, cold and hot deserts, coral reefs, estuaries, forests, freshwater wetlands, grasslands, kelp forests, lakes, open ocean, savannas, streams and urban landscapes. The existence of a network across these sites allows for continental-scale questions to be addressed.

For more than three decades, LTER Network research has been shared with the scientific community, leading to important findings that help us better understand the scope and impact of environmental change.

What They Needed

The LTER Network needed an online platform that would enable scientists and researchers to efficiently manage and easily share detailed ecological research data in a commonly-understood format. The LTER Network had developed a Drupal 6 install profile called the Drupal Ecological Information Management System (DEIMS), but it was not meeting the needs of researchers who needed not only to be able to submit data but also have their data reviewed and annotated before being published to the broader community.

Palantir’s assignment was to transform DEIMS into a sustainable and repeatable platform. DEIMS needed to power success stories for the LTER Network, but also to appeal broadly to a global community of ecological scientists, information managers, and researchers. In addition to making it easier for researchers to upload research data, the system needed to enable information managers and administrators to more easily review and clean up that data before publication. To increase its appeal, DEIMS needed to lower barriers to entry (download and go), and to further engage with an open-source community that has a global reach.

How We Helped

Palantir worked closely with LTER Network staff and information managers at three different and unique LTER research sites to architect a new DEIMS distribution built on Drupal 7. This distribution leveraged the power and flexibility of Workbench, a suite of Drupal modules developed by Palantir that provide moderation and access control capabilities.

A key feature of DEIMS is the ability for the distribution to import data using a variety of APIs, including custom ones developed by the LTER Network. Drupal’s ability to work with diverse forms of data was key to meeting the goal of using the system to enable automated import of data.

Throughout the project, Palantir employed Agile project management methodologies designed to engage LTER Network staff and stakeholders and enable them to work alongside Palantir’s team as collaborative partners throughout the project. With funding for DEIMS coming from multiple institutions, this close coordination helped improve transparency and maximize the impact of the available budget for the project.

The Upshot

By giving the LTER Network the tools and knowledge they needed to continue to develop and extend DEIMS, Palantir worked to ensure the long-term success of the platform and the data it stores.

Numerous improvements were made to Drupal as part of the work done on the project; these patches and modules will benefit others and enable components of the DEIMS platform to be more widely supported by an open source community of thousands of developers.https://drupal.org/project/deims

The new DEIMS distribution is an invaluable tool for the scientific community, enabling scientists and researchers collecting data from Alaska to Antarctica to put their work together to better track patterns and trends in environmental and climate change over recent decades.