Guest Blog Post: No Data Left Out in the Cold

blog arrowPosted on: Aug 8, 2018

Written by: Chantel Ridsdale, Project and Outreach Coordinator | Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN)/Polar Data Catalogue (PDC)

What is Cryospheric Science?

Cryospheric science is the interdisciplinary study of permafrost, snow and ice, primarily on the surface of the Earth, but also on other planets and moons. The cryosphere is an integral part of the climate system, and is investigated with techniques from geophysics, meteorology and hydrology. Source: Nature International Journal of Science

In the mid-1990s, the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN) was developed to facilitate data and metadata management for cryospheric science in Canada. CCIN was created through a collaboration between departments of the Canadian government (the Canadian Space Agency, Environment Canada, and Natural Resources Canada), the University of Waterloo, and Noetix Research Inc.

The main objectives of CCIN are to:

  • provide a data and information management infrastructure for the Canadian cryospheric research community,
  • enhance public awareness and access to cryospheric information and related data, and
  • facilitate the exchange of information between researchers, northern communities, decision makers, and the public.

In the mid-2000s, CCIN and several of their partners wanted to develop a sophisticated web presence and database in response to the evolving data management needs and expectations of Canada’s northern research community, international programs, and interested public. This resulted in the Polar Data Catalogue (PDC), which facilitates the exchange of data between the CCIN database and other sources.

In the last 10 years, CCIN has grown its relationship with several research partners across Canada, such as Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Northern Contaminants Program (NCP), Nunavut General Monitoring Plan (NGMP), ArcticNet, Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), and more. In addition to the services and support provided to these partners and its Canadian programs, CCIN also engages in international collaborations in support of data management needs.  The goal is to facilitate wider dissemination of its data collection and services, and to contribute to the global community of scientific data managers.

The CCIN leadership developed the PDC into a robust, standards-compliant online database which has met the increasing demand for proper stewardship of valuable polar research datasets and information. Below is a schematic of this scalable infrastructure:


Since the late 1990s, CCIN has maintained a section on its website that provides cryospheric information for the public. Featured content includes up-to-date research data on snow, ice, and life in northern Canada, links to publications, games for children, photographs, videos, and an “Ask an Expert” service. In partnership with the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW) of the World Meteorological Organization, new interactive maps feature visualizations of snow water and lake ice, facilitating access and reuse of cryospheric data. Additionally, CCIN collaborating with Environment and Climate Change Canada, has recently been accepted as the Canadian node for GCW’s CRYONET, the core component of a global surface observation network.  As the Canadian node, the partnership will implement and contribute to international meteorological protocols, and increase the availability of GCW data to the public.

Over the years, CCIN and PDC have also helped increase Canada’s capacity for and coordination of Arctic and Antarctic data management, by:

  • implementing a process for assigning Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to PDC datasets
  • creating policies and standards for stewardship and publication of polar data in Canada, including the creation of a document with its partner programs[1] that is subject to frequent review to ensure that it is up-to-date and insightful;
  • creating and maintaining a Help Manual and other supporting documents focused on data management in polar research; and
  • substantially improving the CCIN/PDC web tools and computer server/storage infrastructure to allow online submission and secure storage of large volumes of data.

In large part, CCIN and the PDC have been successful due to our focus on consultation and inclusion of community feedback. We strongly believe that the community must be engaged in decisions that will have lasting effects on their lives and work, as well as services provided by our organization to support their work. Events such as the Canadian Polar Data (CPD) Workshops that were held in 2015 and 2017, and the international Polar Data Forum in 2015 have strengthened this community engagement.

Feedback received during the CPD Workshops demonstrated that there is a lack of coordinated communication between the various partners and stakeholders in the community, and that a public forum would be valuable to keep the momentum built between scheduled meetings and workshops. The Polar Data in Canada LinkedIn group was created to address this gap. We encourage all researchers, institutions, partners, rights holders, and anyone else interested in polar data management in Canada to become a part of this group. Let’s come together, share information, and collaborate!

How to get involved:

  • Search the PDC
  • Explore the interactive CCIN website 
  • Browse and contribute to the Polar Data in Canada community forum
  • Join the Polar Data in Canada LinkedIn group
  • Participate in webinars and watch supporting video for metadata and data input into PDC (coming soon and will be published here)

References and Links

[1] Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), Northern Contaminants Program (NCP), and the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan (NGMP)