Online facility recognized for advancing access to Earth and space science data

Collaboration between ASU, University of California San Diego, EarthScope Consortium to receive inaugural Open Science Recognition Prize from AGU

Side-by-side black-and-white portraits of ASU professors Chelsea Scott and Ramon Arrowsmith.

ASU Principle Investigators Chelsea Scott (left) and Ramon Arrowsmith (right).


OpenTopography, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded data facility operated collaboratively between the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego, EarthScope Consortium and Arizona State University, has been selected to receive the inaugural Open Science Recognition Prize from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Open science, according to UNESCO, is “an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone; to increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society; and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community.”

The AGU recognition prize is awarded to a person or team for outstanding work in advancing open science related to Earth and space science and its impact globally. The OpenTopography principal investigators — ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Professors Chelsea Scott and Ramon Arrowsmith, along with Viswanath Nandigam of SDSC and Christopher Crosby of EarthScope Consortium — are recognized by the global Earth and space sciences community for their outstanding contributions in cyberinfrastructure, data management, training and outreach associated with open-access high-resolution topography.  

Open Science Recognition Prize winners are chosen from nominations across the Earth and space science community for individuals or teams that advance open science through creation or use of open data, software and other open results. AGU, the world's largest Earth and space science association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals for its highest honors. Each recipient embodies the AGU community’s shared vision of a thriving, sustainable and equitable future powered by discovery, innovation and action. According to AGU, these recipients have worked with integrity, respect and collaboration while creating deep engagement in education, diversity and outreach.

Arrowsmith shared that the topography of the Earth’s surface is a fundamental geomorphic and geophysical observable, marking the boundary across which the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere interact. “These data are essential to the Earth sciences, and OpenTopography democratizes access to the data, tools and knowledge resources necessary to fully utilize the data in research and education,” he said.

Since 2008 when it was founded, OpenTopography has been focused on facilitating efficient access to topography data, tools and resources to advance understanding of the Earth’s surface, vegetation and built environment.

“This award is a tremendous recognition of the team who has built and maintained OpenTopography over the last 15 years. Credit is due to our advisory committee members past and present, as well as our funders, especially the National Science Foundation,” said Nandigam. “And most importantly, it honors the trust of our partners and the vast community of users who rely on us to make available topographic data, data products and knowledge about those products and their applications open.” 

Crosby noted that it has been exceptionally rewarding to watch OpenTopography’s user community grow and diversify as the system has become the most comprehensive source of topographic data on the internet. “OpenTopography’s (impacts) on research and education have been large, but the system is also regularly used by industry, governments and hobbyists from around the world,” he said. 

“This open-science prize acknowledges the global impact of open data and an OpenTopography platform that makes these data easy to access and use regardless of computing resources and specialized skills,” said Scott.  

The SDSC, EarthScope Consortium and ASU winners said that the AGU open-science award would not have been achievable without the unwavering dedication and collective efforts of every member on the OpenTopography team, including Matthew Beckley, Minh Phan, Kai Lin, Emily Zawacki (ASU PhD alum) and Kate Kaya, as well as multiple past team members and interns.

AGU will formally recognize this year’s recipients at AGU23, which will convene more than 25,000 attendees from over 100 countries in San Francisco and online everywhere between Dec. 11 and 15. The celebration is a chance for AGU’s community to recognize the outstanding work of its colleagues and be inspired by their accomplishments and stories.

This press release was written by University of California San Diego with contributions from Kim Baptista from ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration.

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