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Science Literacy

A young scientist plays with SOS Explorer mobile app.GSL-developed technology encourages learning and discovery for a science-literate society and makes that technology accessible to everyone.

For the past 25 years, Science on a Sphere® (SOS) has been a valuable tool to visualize Earth system science for audiences of all ages and education. SOS was invented and built in 2005 and received a US patent. Since then, SOS has been installed in nearly 200 locations around the world, with an estimated 67 million people viewing it each year. As SOS continued development within the NOAA Global Systems Laboratory, and its outreach expanded, it became evident that the technology needed to be housed by a department with a customer-facing mission in order to facilitate further outreach. The NOAA Office of Education (OEd) became the SOS transition partner due to their long-sponsored SOS-related events and promotions relating to science education of students and the general public. The transition began in Fall 2021, and was completed in December 2022.

The NOAA Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) hosts SOS in their Web Operations Center (WOC). The WOC uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its infrastructure consisting of about 15 virtual machines and 10’s of terabytes of data files. This infrastructure is where the SOS team builds the software and distributes it to customer sites, as well as hosts the data catalogs and website.

The Department of Commerce recognized the SOS project team's work by awarding them the Bronze Medal, "for the Department's first research to education transition that secured NOAA's ability to deliver data products to a vast network with global reach." The SOS team is now positioned to leverage the cloud tools in AWS and pursue technical innovation in new ways. The successful transition of SOS from GSL to OEd has launched a new chapter in the SOS program’s long history and offers great promise for continuing its unique and exciting science education into the future.

150 Science on a Sphere® systems have been installed around the world.

GSL leveraged this technology to create Science On a Sphere Explorer™ Mobile, a free app for smartphones and tablets that can be downloaded for free.

GSL scientists were awarded the 2020 Impact Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer for this work