Social media is coming to the field of water research through a project called HydroShare.

The Renaissance Computing Institute will work with seven other universities in the “Facebook for hydrologists” project that is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The NSF will pour $4.5 million into the program, $2.1 million of which will go to RENCI to build the technical infrastructure the hydrologists need to better share and access data.

Once complete, the project should enable scientists to access data, models and code from their desktops for analysis using shared software and other products.

Utah State University is the lead on the five-year program.

“Think of it as Facebook for hydrologists who want to work collaboratively sharing data and models,” said David Tarboton of Utah State who is the lead principal investigator on the project.

Ray Idaszak, RENCI’s director of collaborative environments, is technical coordinator and co-principal investigator.

Larry Band, director of UNC’s Institute for the Environment, is a scientific lead at UNC and co-principal investigator.

HydroShare will utilize existing software created by the Data Intensive Cyber Environments group at RENCI and UNC’s School of Information and Library Science. It is used to “manage distributed data by developing the rules, filters, metadata tags, and methods for interpreting syntax,” according to RENCI. 

“Scientific problems related to water—how to maintain quality, manage scarce water resources, and ensure accessibility—are fundamental to the health of our planet and its societies,” Idaszak said. “If we can help water scientists share and publish their data and make it easier for them to collaborate and address these critical challenges, the benefits will be widespread and long lasting. We feel privileged to partner with the hydrology community to solve these critical problems.”