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1 Introduction A CHANGING WORLD Whether it is the air we breathe, the flowers we look forward to each spring, or the tornado that threatens our houses, the natural environment concerns us all. In our industrialized society, we count increasingly on reliable, factual information (see Box l.1 for definitions) about the environment. Electric utility companies predict demand during heat waves; structural engineers design buildings to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes; water managers monitor each winter's snow pack. Over the past several decades it has become increasingly apparent that humans are altering climate all over the globe, whole ecosystems are being trans- formed, and innumerable species are becoming extinct. The implications of such fundamental changes are largely unknown, bringing a new urgency to understanding how natural systems have fared under external stresses in the past, documenting how they are responding at present, and establishing the scientific principles that allow us to predict their possible future courses. All these applications historical, current, or predictive~epend on science-based measurements, gathered and analyzed within a formal or informal information system framework. In many cases, an established process exists for exchanging, compiling, and interpreting environmental data nationally and internationally. In other cases, the process is less structured, but it still takes place through research and publication in scientific journals and government statistics or reports. These data are then correlated and interpreted by scientists and engineers to provide a reliable, factual basis for actions by others. To further environmental understanding and develop good public policies for dealing with all aspects of the environment, the U.S. 7 /

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8 The Privatization of Environmental Data government invests in basic research and in information systems. However, declining agency budgets, which force the government to seek partners for sharing costs, as well as improvements in technology for collecting, handling, processing, and publishing data have opened new opportunities for the private sector to participate in the environmental enterprise. Although the involvement of the private sector brings potential advantages to science and society, it also introduces laws and business practices that are different from those of the scientific community. For example, international programs for global change research and environmental monitoring depend on policies guaranteeing full and open access to data (i.e., data and information made available without restriction on a nondiscriminatory basis for no more than the cost of reproduction and distribution). However, the private sector and commercialized government agencies in other countries operate in a commercial environment in which revenues must at least cover the costs of generating a data product, and controlling access to data is key to remaining competitive. Five major groups of stakeholders, each of which has different goals, generate and/or use environmental information: 1. scientists involved in generating and interpreting data; 2. government agencies involved in funding much of the enterprise and in delivering products that achieve the overall goals of understanding the environment and providing information to improve decision making concerning the environment; 3. private-sector organizations, which have an increasing role in collecting data and producing value-added products; 4. policy makers, who make informed judgments about what is in the best Tong-term interests of the communities they represent; and 5. the general public, in whose interest basic research and environmental monitonug are being undertaken. The purpose of this report is to identify the issues and potential conflicts that inevitably arise from interactions among these five groups. Special attention is given to the concerns of scientists, who currently Governments also invest in basic research because it yields enormous economic benefits. See C.I. Jones, and J.C. Williams, 1998, Measuring the Social Return to R&D, Quarterly Journal of Economics, v. 113~4), p. 1119- 1135.

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Introduction 9 enjoy full and open access to an enormous quantity of gove~nment- collected data. A shift from public funding to a commercial market could relegate scientists' uses to a small niche,2 giving scientists little or no voice in the collection of data that are necessary for understanding the environment and for generating knowledge on behalf of the public. Unless accomplished under carefully crafted conditions, such a shift with its associated increase in prices (compared with marginal cost) and restrictions on use could disrupt or even fundamentally change the scientific practices that have led to the scientific and economic successes of the last half century. The Committee on Geophysical and Environmental Data was charged with examining the impact of commercialization and priv- atization policies (including database legislation) on established scientific practices in the environmental sciences (ocean, atmosphere, land surface, solid-earth), with an emphasis on (1) problems in obtaining, using, sharing, or publishing data and (2) solutions that have worked in the past. Because most of the information used by environmental scientists is currently collected by government agencies and managed in inflation systems, the committee focused on environmental infor- mation systems created purely or partly for public purposes. The committee could not assess the impact of database legislation, which 2Examples of market-driven changes that decreased the influence of scientists on further development include the personal computer revolution, the global expansion of the World Wide Web, and the privatization of Landsat. More powerful and less expensive computers have greatly benefited the scientific enterprise, but mass markets have resulted in a focus on parallel architectures. The benefits of such architectures have yet to be demonstrated for the large and complex multiply-connected computations that are characteristic of environmental simulations, but U.S. scientists have little option but to try to adept to them. See NRC, 1998, Capacity of U.S. Climate Modeling to Support Climate Assessment Activities. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 65 pp. Similarly, the World Wide Web has provided a means for scientists to obtain and transfer enormous quantities of information, but participation by the general public has introduced long delays due to competition for bandwidth. An example in which privatization reduced the influence of scientists over data collection is Landsat-4 and -5. As a result of privatization, the strategy for acquiring global datasets critical to global change research was replaced by a strategy of collecting data over certain land-surface areas of interest to commercial customers. See NRC, 1997, Bits of Power: Issues in Global Access to Scientific Data. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 235 pp.

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10 The Privatization of Environmental Data does not yet exist in the United States, even though five bills have been introduced in Congress. Similarly, database legislation in Europe (the European Union Database Directive) is too recent to have affected scientific practices.3 3The key elements of the directive remain open to conflicting interpretation and controversy. See P.B. Hugenholtz, The new database right: Early case law from Europe. Ninth Annual Conference on International IP Law & Policy, Fordham University School of Law, New York, April 10-20, 2001, 13 pp.

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Introduction 11 THE INFORMATION TREE This report portrays the elements of a typical environmental information system in terms of a simple analogy: an "information tree" (see Figure ~.1~. The tree consists of four parts, each of which is operated by individuals working in a variety of settings (universities, government centers, commercial organizations), either independently or as members of national or international coalitions: 1. The roots represent data collection, in which instruments of varying sophistication are deployed and operated to collect raw data. 2. The trunk represents the synthesis of all available inflation, including new and retrospective (Iooking backward) raw data as well as processed information, into a limited set of core products that are useful for many purposes and serve multiple users. 3. The branches represent the transformation of the core products to value-added products designed to serve a specific user need. 4. The leaves represent the end uses of core and value-added products.

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12 The Privatization of Environmental Data The Wee also provides a means of identifying where conflicts may arise among the five stakeholder groups and where negotiations shouic3 take place. J Distribution and Use Processing (quality control, validation, synthesis, archive) Observations and Data Collection ~ -_ ^c~ _ ,0 _ I; In ~ r ~T~- FIGURE 1.1 Schematic tree used to illustrate the elements of an environmental information system created for public purposes. Observations recorded in the roots are synthesized in the trunk and are distributed by many branches for different groups of end uses that are represented by the leaves. The information needs that these users have in common place requirements on the whole structure beneath, including the types of measurements made and the products synthesized from them. A more detailed version of the same figure is given in Figure 3. 1.

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Introduction 13 ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT The purpose of this report is to illustrate the issues that arise in the interaction of the five environmental stakeholder groups (scientists, government agencies, private-sector organizations, policy makers, and the general public) and to outline a process by which the stakeholders can negotiate among themselves. Chapter 2 surveys the different viewpoints held by the stakeholders. The roles of each of these groups in environmental information systems are described in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 provides the economic and data policy fiamework for public-purpose information systems and examines the compatibility of open access to data with a competitive market. Chapter 5 illustrates the potential conflicts among stakeholders in environmental information systems created purely or partly for public purposes. Guidelines for negotiating solutions are given in Chapter 6. Finally, negotiating effectively requires that scientific and legal issues are understood by all parties; overviews of these topics are in Appendixes A and B.

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