Global Change Information System (GCIS)


The U.S. Global Change Research Program ( is sponsoring the creation of a new information system, the Global Change Information System (GCIS) that will provide a web based source of authoritativeaccessibleusable, and timely information about climate and global change for use by scientists, decision makers, and the public. It will initially be focused on capturing and presenting all of the supporting information (datasets, papers, people, projects, etc.) from the National Climate Assessment (  It will eventually link together climate and global change information from across the federal government.

A preliminary public version of the GCIS API is available now:

This session will present an overview of the system, status and progress with some initial information modeling and web site concepts.  There will be time for discussion and feedback about the long term vision for the system.


Most documentation available through

Global Change Research Act of 1990 established need to assess climate and its impacts on national (and international) interests of USA. Report was to be produced every 4 years, thus far only two National Climate Assessments (2001, 2009) The third NCA is being produced (already out in draft form)

The Global Change Information System was developed to act as a(quasi) portal to broker access to information produced by NCA similar reports, in USAID and other gov agencies.

  • Idea wasn’t that it’s the only model for access, but with climate data (which is diffuse and rarely centralized) too often there is a “No wrong door” model of where to find NASA data.
  • GCIS wants to lower burdern of locating and using NCA – like info resources
  • Audience is broad : policy makers, scientists, private industry, etc.


Notable about the ontology is that it treats related concepts from developed ontologies (i.e. PROV) as a subclass of GCIS.

So for instance:

Prov:Agent -> subclass_Of -> GCIS:Agent

- This is done so as not to make sure that the GCIS ontology doesn’t unnecessarily inherit Superclass attributes of the class “agent” from Prov.

(Much confusion ensued) :)


API is accessible and some prototyping is available at

The API is open source and can be found at

File 2014_ESIPWinterMeeting_GCIS.pptx9.58 MB
Tilmes, C.; Global Change Information System (GCIS); Winter Meeting 2014. ESIP Commons , November 2013