The Industrial Ecology Open Science Project

Industrial Ecology (IE) is the core science of data- and model-driven sustainability research. IE quantifies the environmental and social consequences of human activities by linking environmental, social and economic data into a consistent accounting and modeling framework. Topics of IE research range from analysing global material cycles, to identifying the impacts of products and technologies, to the estimation of the environmental footprints of countries and regions.

Driven by the growing complexity of economic systems as well as advances in our understanding of environmental and social interactions, IE research becomes increasingly computational and data intensive. For example, typical Multi-Regional Input-Output databases for the calculation of environmental footprints now contain more than 10 000 country-sector pairs combined with up to 1000 specific social and environmental pressures, resulting in systems with up to 1 billion variables. These databases, however, currently form monolithic data-silos; a common, open e-infrastructure for analysing and sharing IE results is missing.

Besides the issues common to most data heavy scientific disciplines (large data versioning, provenance tracking, common ontologies, ...) IE research faces two specific challenges:

    IE research relies on data published by non-scientific agencies (e.g. businesses, national statistical agencies, international economic databases). These data rarely come with unique identifiers or version control and might be updated/replaced/deleted without notification. Currently, the only way to incorporate these data into a reproducible workflow is to document the access date and, if possible, store a local snapshot of the data.

    Many of the data sources used by IE contain confidential data (e.g. sales data, tax data). This hinders the implementation of a fully open workflow, demanding access control to raw data. To what extend results derived from such data can follow Open Access and Open Data standards still needs to be determined.

Recently, a Data Transparency Task Force (DTTF) was formed by the International Society of Industrial Ecology and has established mandatory minimum requirements for data transparency and accessibility for the Journal of Industrial Ecology publications. Now, the DTTF evolved into the Industrial Ecology Open Science (IEOS) project, a bottom-up initiative for facilitating FAIR IE data as well as procedural transparency (Open Source/Workflow).

First activities of the IEOS include:

    outlining steps towards better reuse of sustainability research software
    establishing a central IE repository for gathering scattered data and software
    setup of a Zenodo community for preprints and data/software sharing
    developing common databases for gathering research outcomes in a
    consistent way
    building an ontology for data classification
    developing software frameworks which unifies access to sustainability data in different formats

None of these activities are currently part of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) or the European Data Infrastructure (EDI); it can be argued that IE belongs to the long tail of scientific fields as defined by the EOSCpilot. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss opportunities and challenges for moving the bottom-up driven activities into the EOSC and find synergies between current efforts and the existing EDI.