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Ecosystems Research

Software System Interoperability

EPA scientists are conducting transdisciplinary research to develop solutions to the nation’s 21st century environmental problems. Doing so requires sophisticated computer software that allows researchers to integrate and organize their science across multiple disciplines. Software is needed that can do all this and facilitate understanding and forecasting of environmental processes that affect human and ecosystem health.

Currently, there are no widely accepted best practices or standards for the design and implementation of components or systems to accomplish the level of interoperability required to meet this challenge. Environmental software is often designed and implemented to satisfy a task or problem at hand. The result is that computer implementations are often not compatible, re-usable, or inter-operable with other software systems.

Without more efficient means for sharing software expertise, cross-disciplinary solutions to complex environmental problems will remain a challenge. This issue will continue to intensify as existing and emerging technologies, such as biosensors, Internet technologies, cloud computing, mobile devices, and social media, are utilized for scientific information processing and communication.

EPA scientists in Athens, Ga., are conducting research to establish and promote best practices and standards for increasing software reuse and interoperability for integrated environmental modeling. Software reuse is the use of existing software — in whole or in part — for a different purpose than it was originally intended.

Interoperable software has two primary features:

  • Software that links two or more independent software components or systems to create a more comprehensive, functional system; and
  • Applications that facilitate sharing of inter-changeable components across software systems, such as plug-n-play software architecture.

EPA scientists in Athens, Ga., are working with others to:

  • Increase awareness of the meaning, need for, and benefits of software reuse and interoperability;
  • Document state-of-the-art practices in software development;
  • Document existing standards for reuse and interoperability design and implementation;
  • Develop proof-of-principle projects to demonstrate interoperability; and
  • Establish best practices and standards for incorporation of interoperability and reuse in software development.

Results and Impact
As best practices and standards are adopted, and interoperable software systems are more widely developed and used, scientists will have the tools needed to produce more integrated solutions to complex environmental problems. This will allow for solutions reflecting the best science from across contributing disciplines to emerge. It will also enable a wider array of stakeholders to participate in the process.

Technical Team: John Johnston (contact), Gerry Laniak, Kurt Wolfe, Rajbir Parmar


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