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Publicly available soil science research

The Internet has arisen as an ultimate tool for sharing knowledge. A group of European research institutes has taken advantage of the Internet to make their soil science research available to the public.
Publicly available soil science research
The Internet is a global communications network connecting people worldwide. One of the two parent networks of the Internet was for the US Military. The other was an academic network facilitating the sharing of information among researchers.

The Internet has grown substantially over the past two decades. It now supports the sharing of knowledge across borders, languages, cultures and disciplines. Archives of information can be made available to the public, though issues of data ownership, management, validity, access and security must be taken into account.

Several European soil research institutes have taken advantage of this aspect of the Internet to put some of their valuable research online. The COSINUS database provides data from field and laboratory measurements as well as numerical simulations. The database is distributed in that each institution is responsible for entering, hosting and ensuring the quality of its own datasets.

Internet visitors browse a centralised server, which hosts textual descriptions of each dataset (called metadata). The datasets are organised into categories and sub-categories. When the visitor wishes to retrieve a particular dataset, they receive a package. The package contains both the metadata and the data itself.

The knowledge contained within the COSINUS database is primarily of interest to soil scientists. There is a wealth of data from several European research experiments and case studies. The consortium is looking to supplement COSINUS with data from new projects. At a higher level, the COSINUS database provides a model for the sharing of information applicable to any discipline.

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