Tool Usability, Information and Tutorials
How easy to use are the tools available through the AKN, and are there guidance documents or tutorials for the tools?
The tools available for users of the AKN were developed by Point Blue Conservation Science using techniques from commercial software development. Developers at Point Blue Conservation Science spent time watching how users manage information and listened to their feedback. Their goal is to develop and design software that can be learned through minimal training and documentation. Most tools in the AKN are fairly intuitive and easy to use, and require very little instruction or guidance. The tools that require a little more knowledge or training are the Analyst and Bulk Uploader tools. Users can find short video tutorials walking them through the basics of the tools on each of the tool webpages. A full list of available tutorials can be found on the AKN Tutorials and Guidance page. These tutorials also provide guidance for how to obtain further assistance if that’s still need after introductory materials are reviewed.
Where can I see what datasets the tools offered through the AKN are using?
Information about the datasets feeding into the core AKN data summary and analysis tools (Phenology Tool, Observations Map and IPaC) can be viewed here. Data feeding into node-specific data summary and analysis tools may only include a subset of the datasets feeding the core AKN tools. Please reference the information provided with each individual tool to learn about the specific dataset feeding its results.
Is there a help desk for the AKN?
Yes. You may submit any technical issues with the website or tools via the AKN Help Desk, and your question will be routed to the appropriate party who can assist. Any other questions can be directed to the appropriate AKN representative.
Getting Access to AKN Data and Dataset Details
How do I get access to data in the AKN?
If you share data with the AKN, or a data owner has shared their data with you, you will always be able to retrieve and download all the details of this data once you log in to your account. You can also download certain datasets that are not yours, but have been shared at data sharing level 5 (or Level 2 for IWMM observations) in the AKN directly via the Data Downloader tool; although you will only be able to download a certain subset of fields from these datasets. Another option for getting access to datasets is to find the dataset in the Data Catalog and contact the data owner directly. For more information about the Data Catalog, please see the next FAQ.
Is there a way to get access to or more information about datasets in the AKN, even the ones that are not publicly available or downloadable?
Yes. The AKN Data Catalog, allows users to see information about all the datasets in AKN, their associated sharing levels, as well as data owner contact information. This tool helps facilitate visibility to the various datasets in AKN, and enables interested parties to contact the data owners with questions, or requests for access to the data. It is also intended to facilitate the transition of unshared data in AKN to a sharing level that will allow data to be used in summary and analysis tools and via the data AKN Data Downloader, so others can benefit from it. Certain publicly available datasets like E-bird and BBS are not available via the Data Downloader, and need to be downloaded or requested directly from those data providers. Instructions for download of these datasets are available within the Data Downloader interface.
Does the AKN work with data clearinghouses like DataOne or BISON?
AKN nodes have done initial work with DataOne and BISON, most notably Cornell Lab of Ornithology with eBird data. The AKN is currently exploring becoming a DataOne Member Node and will be communicating with USGS about integrating with BISON as it develops. However, the plan is to enable these clearinghouses to act as media for discovery of AKN data. All AKN data are still governed by the data policy and individual partner agreements, so that full datasets can only be obtained directly from the hosting nodes.
Sharing Your Data with AKN
I have data I’d like to enter or a dataset I’d like to upload or integrate into the AKN. How does this process work, and how do I get started with it?
The AKN has published a data standard for data exchange called Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (BMDE). The Bulk Uploader tool and other data entry interfaces accept data in the BMDE form. Additionally, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can be used to transfer a copy of data from an existing database into the AKN. APIs are ideal when the data owner would like to still maintain the data in an existing database, but also share the data with AKN. Database translation to enable integration via the Bulk Uploader or an API does require some knowledge of the source data, as well as how data are represented in the AKN, and may require assistance by an AKN programmer. If you have a large dataset and are interested in integrating into the AKN, please contact an AKN representative to determine the best way to proceed with getting your data incorporated. If you’re able to set up a project an enter single data points yourself, this is an easier process that may not require additional assistance. View the instructions on the Upload, Enter and Manage Your Dataset page for how to initiate this process.
What are the benefits of sharing my data with the AKN?
There are many benefits to sharing your data with the AKN. The primary benefit to you is that you will automatically have access to the AKN Analyst Tool that will allow you to view patterns and trends in your data. To learn more about the Analyst, see the Analyst Tool video tutorial. In addition, AKN features that are shared by all AKN data owners (such as the Analyst application) are always improving as new projects come online that seek to improve them. So, AKN data owners reap the benefits of these improvements as they occur. The potential benefit to the greater AKN is that you may choose to share your data at a Data Sharing Level that allows the data to be used with other data in AKN tools and tools like IPAC that access AKN data. So, your data can help make the returns in those tools more robust.
Who has the right to use the data that are put into the AKN?
All rights are governed by the AKN data sharing agreement and data sharing levels each data owner assigns to his/her dataset. Data owners maintain ownership and rights over all data they provide to the AKN as they see fit, including the right to allow specific third parties full or partial access to the data.
Are there restrictions on getting access to my data once I put data in the AKN?
No. Once your data is in AKN, if you have the Project Leader role, you will have full access to all the data and details of the data simply by logging in to the AKN with your established username and password.
How are data in the AKN managed?
Data are housed in enterprise-level databases at AKN nodes. Data may be stored in transactional form (optimized for management) and/or warehouse form (optimized for analysis), depending on how the data owner wants to manage and share information.
Data Security and Sharing Levels
How are data shared securely in the AKN?
Each observation available in the AKN is tagged with a data sharing level as determined and set by the data owner (project leader). The AKN provides multiple data sharing levels (full details can be found on the Data Sharing Level page).
I have some data that should only be accessible to a limited audience, whereas other data can be made more widely available. Is that possible to do in the AKN? How can variability be accommodated?
Yes. The data sharing levels make these distinctions possible. As a data owner, you decide what data sharing level is assigned to each record. For more information on data sharing levels, view the video tutorial on Managing and Adjusting Data Sharing Levels.
How AKN Nodes and Tools Are Created and Managed
How do I create an AKN node? What steps do I have to take to get an AKN node in place?
AKN node creation simply requires bringing partners, data, tools, and science together for the purpose of informing conservation. You can organize a node either around a specific geography or a theme. For more information about specific steps to start up or tie into an existing node, contact an AKN representative.
Does the AKN have a standard set of required software?
No. Each node makes different choices for its enterprise-level systems and web platforms. Existing nodes have deployed a wide variety of software from major vendors in the industry.
How much experience does the AKN have in building data management tools?
Quite a lot. Members of the AKN, such as Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada and Point Blue Conservation Science, have been building data management tools for many years in a wide variety of different platforms and data formats.
Learning to use the AKN System
How do I get help and training to use the AKN?