Supporting Open Science for Climate Researchers in Nordic Countries

By Bérénice Batut | A spotlight on a Sprint for Internet Health project

Anne is an experienced Research Software Engineer dedicated to supporting climate researchers in the Nordic countries towards the adoption of Open Science best practices. Anne’s interest in learning to share and implement community driven project led her to start the NordicESMHub project that was selected in the last round of Mozilla Open Leaders.

I interviewed Anne Fouilloux to learn more about NordicESMhub and how you can contribute to the work.

Nordic Earth System Modelling Hub (NordicESMHub) is an online collaborative platform for sharing knowledge, tools and code with students, researchers and citizen interested in climate in general, and in particular on the regional impact of global changes in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Norway).

Climate models are very effective at providing global information on climate change but their ability to detect impacts on the Nordic countries at the local scale is still questioned. Nordic countries have a shared history that extends more than a millennium back in time and also have a shared future regarding the impacts of climate change. The climate in the Nordic countries is cold but arctic warming is accelerating at a speed that exceeds what is happening in other parts of the globe. The level of education is high, and the interest and knowledge about the environmental questions and problems are widespread among citizens. Governments strongly support research on climate change in the Nordics with several research initiatives launched in each of these countries.

On the other hand, Nordic countries cover a large territory with a combined area of more than 3 millions square kilometres but with few inhabitants (300 000 inhabitants in Iceland, 1.5 million inhabitants in Estonia, 6 millions in Norway and Finland, 12 millions in Sweden and Denmark). So when a student or PhD or researcher is working on a specific topic, their closest colleague (in distance and time to travel) can very often be located in a neighbouring country. It is therefore important to cover the need for sharing knowledge over all the Nordic countries and not in each Nordic country separately.

We have used a portfolio of tools for our project. We first created a GitHub organization and our website as the focal point. Our main goal was to be visible and accessible and GitHub covers both. But sharing tools and being able to use them efficiently and easily were equally important for us. Climate data and models are difficult to master so we chose to offer them as part of the Galaxy ecosystem. Galaxy is well spread for data intensive in biology so why for climate? Choosing a technical solution is not easy and usually has long term consequences. But here the choice was easy. What we have chosen is not a technical solution but a community. Go to and you will understand what I mean! On the front page it says: “Galaxy Community Hub” and “Data intensive in Biology for everyone”. Community and for everyone as well as an excellent training network triggered our decision.

The first challenge we faced was to decide where and how to start. Bérénice, our mentor, guided us and helped us to take the right decisions. Starting with the development of our website as the focal point of NordicESMhub was a great idea. The website template has been created by StreetScienceCommunity from StreetScienceCommunity Github . The main advantage is that everything is written in markdown so we can easily maintain it and ask for new contributions. Scientists often have limited knowledge of HTML so it is perfect for us.

The biggest challenge we faced was to set up our e-infrastructure for deploying Climate tools in Galaxy. Nobody had expertise in Galaxy in the climate community. And again, Bérénice was there to guide us. She suggested we attend a Galaxy training and hackathon organized at Roscoff, France. That was just awesome to meet the Galaxy Community and to get so much support from them. Now, we are on track.

  • Climate scientists working on climate at high-latitudes such as arctic warming, permafrost
  • Galaxy developers for developing new Galaxy tools for the climate community
  • Experts in conda packaging as we need to include new packages in conda-forge and/or bioconda

There are two main areas: the website and our set of galaxy tools.


Galaxy tools:

The Open Leaders program helped us to learn how to organize our project efficiently. I was overwhelmed and did not know where and how to start. Being allowed to explain our goals to others (verbally during online sessions) was extremely useful. It forced me to clarify my objectives and express them in a simple manner.

The help of Bérénice, our mentor, was invaluable. She was just perfect, having all the skills and network that we needed to start this project in the most efficient manner. The thing is with a mentor such as Bérénice, you can not give up! Without the Open Leaders program, this project would not exist.

from giphy

Join us wherever you are during the month of May at Mozilla’s Sprint for Internet Health to work on many amazing open projects! Join a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to hack and build projects for a health Internet.

This post by Bérénice Batut is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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