Guest advances data needs

dkaufman jul 18PAGES' Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) member Darrell Kaufman has a date with all things data during his six-month sabbatical in Bern, Switzerland.

Normally you will find PAGES' current guest scientist analyzing lake sediment cores from Alaska, as Regents' Professor at the School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, USA. But a data scare and joining the SSC in 2015 have helped shape the current phase of his career.

"As an SSC member, I've taken a special interest in the PAGES Integrative Activity on Data Stewardship," Kaufman said. "I'm working with co-editors now on the next issue of the Past Global Changes Magazine, which will feature the role of open data in advancing paleoscience. Another goal is to update and expand the PAGES data policy in ways that I hope will encourage the authors of PAGES products to lead the community in making paleo data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable), a topic that is now gaining a lot of momentum among publishers and funders."

Championing the cause for open data and data coordination is a role Kaufman has taken on because he believes sharing data advances science.

"Everyone has an opinion and experiences when working with data," he said. "Sometimes the topic becomes contentious and somewhat emotional for people who have had bad experiences or experienced issues with ownership. We're still early in that process of developing the practices of sharing data, and to some degree the infrastructure to do it, but I'm convinced that assembling large datasets of global change will accelerate scientific discovery."

In 2011, the now former regional working groups of the PAGES 2k Network were reporting their continental-scale temperature reconstructions during his first sabattical in Bern. Kaufman was involved in the Arctic2k group and wanted to work the global synthesis. "I was in the right place at the right time," he said.

Moving from the PAGES 2k project to data stewardship was a natural transition, he said. "In 2011, we were still in the wake of the illict release of climate scientists' stolen e-mails, including my own, and it was the lead up to the IPCC's fifth assessment report. The paleo community had to redouble its effort to make sure that the data behind its influential conclusions about the unusualness of recent global warming were well situated and publicly available. Since then, we've come a long way toward advancing open and reusable data."

Kaufman noted that his sabbaticals seemed to be timed for the IPCC assessment reports, as he is now an author on AR6. "My stay in Bern is bookended by the first two author meetings," he said. "The second one is in January when authors will review an early internal draft. I'm now sketching my piece of the report. I couldn't be in a better place to be working on it, with the vast expertise available through PAGES channels and at the Oeschger Centre (OCCR).

One of the other reasons Kaufman is in Bern is to work with OCCR Director Martin Grosjean and his Bern University research group at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). "Martin and I have a shared interest in developing proxy climate records from lake sediments," Kaufman said, "and have an experiment lined up to test whether the gas ion source for the radiocarbon analyzer here at LARA can improve the accuracy of lake core chronologies, by analyzing more and smaller bits of vegetation, compared to conventional AMS dating using processed graphite."

Since arriving in Bern two weeks ago, Kaufman said he has been reliving many fond memories and enjoying the start of his second guest-scientist tenure. "I've been warmly welcomed by the PAGES IPO, by the Oeschger Centre staff, by Sönke Szidat who directs the radiocarbon lab, and especially by Martin and his research group. Thank you for hosting me, and thank you to the Swiss Science Foundation for the Research Visit award. I'm looking forward to a productive and enjoyable six months."

Read more about Kaufman's work here.