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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril 3 Geoscience Data and Collections Today INTRODUCTION As demonstrated in chapter 2, an impressive amount of geoscience data and collections resides in repositories within the United States. The variety and types of geoscience data and collections are equally impressive. This chapter describes the major types of geoscience data and collections that are physical rather than digital, why they are collected, by whom they are collected, the nature of the data and collections themselves, and the nature of the facilities in which they currently reside. Who Collects Geoscience Data and Collections and Where They Are Held Geoscience data and collections are collected or held by corporations, private companies, government agencies, state geological surveys, educational institutions, public and private museums, and individuals (see Table 3-1 and Figure 3-1). While no comprehensive index of U.S. geoscience data and collections repositories exists, the American Geological Institute’s National Directory of Geoscience Data Repositories (AGI, 1997) includes information on the types of data held by some repositories, along with information on the geographic area each covers. The data and collections corporations hold are usually those acquired directly through their own activities or via purchase from other corporations. Private companies, in the form of independent repositories or data brokers, also collect and retain geoscience data and collections for sale or lease. Government agencies (state, federal, and local) collect these materials to further their scientific, economic, safety, and regulatory missions. Educational institutions and museums have similar goals, but emphasize the educational or research value of geoscience data and collections. The extent and type of geoscience data and collections acquired by these entities vary depending on their mission. CORES AND CUTTINGS Not all holes drilled in the Earth produce cores and not all cores are rock. Cores can consist of rock, unconsolidated sediment, or ice. Each is collected for the specific and unique information it can supply. Rock cores are long cylindrical samples of Earth’s crust taken most commonly by means of a diamond core drill (for rock and ice) (Figure 3-2). Sediment cores are comparatively much shorter cylindrical samples collected most commonly by rapidly vibrating or pounding a metal tube into the sediment. Cores are collected by many different kinds of people and entities, including major and independent petroleum companies, mineral exploration companies, water resource managers, engineers, and scientists. The average oil well core is 2.75 to 4 inches in diameter and may be a few feet to a few thousand feet long (Figure 3-3a). Drill holes (wells) are made for a variety of reasons, including: exploration and production of oil and gas; exploration for coal, metals, or other minerals; production or monitoring of groundwater; monitoring the environment; and studying rock characteristics for applied or basic research. In addition to resource assessment, examination of cores can yield essential data for study of climate change, ancient extraterrestrial impact craters, evolution of sedimentary basins, ancient and modern volcanic systems, and the deep biosphere, among many others. They also provide data essential to safely site and build nuclear power plants, dams, buildings, highways, bridges, tunnels, and other structures. Rock cores in Earth’s crust contain direct information including its mineralogical and petrological composition and structure, fluid content, fractures, fossil composition (and therefore age), and the nature of change from one rock type to another. Two particularly important features of a rock for petroleum production and water resource management are porosity and permeability. Porosity is a measure of the fluid storage capacity of a rock; it can be determined directly by
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril TABLE 3-1 Examples of Collectors of Geoscience Data and Collections, and Their Purpose Volume of Physical Samplesa Public Sector Private Sector Entity Purpose Entity Purpose Largerb Smithsonian Institution Research, education Large Petroleum Co. Resource extraction, research U.S. Geological Survey Research, education, resource evaluation Large State Geol. Survey Research, regulatory Department of Energy Research, site characterization Large Mining Co. Resource extraction U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Site characterization Ocean Drilling Program Research, education Continental Drilling Program Research, education Independent Oil Co. Resource extraction U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Site characterization Small Mining Co. Private Museums Resource extraction Education, research National Ice Core Lab Research, education University Education, research Public Museum Education, research Water Management District Regulatory, management Consulting Firm Various Minerals Management Service Regulatory Small State Geol. Survey Research, regulatory Bureau of Land Management Regulatory Smaller Individuals Hobby, investment aVolume is estimated only from physical data retained by each group (predominantly cores, cuttings, samples) (see Table 2-1). bThese examples are ranked in approximate order of volume of physical geoscience collections held by each entity. examining cores, or indirectly from examining other subsurface data. However, permeability, which is a measure of the connectivity of the pore spaces (i.e., how easily a fluid can move through the rock or sediment), can only be measured directly from examination of actual rock samples, which are recovered only in cores and cuttings from the deep subsurface. To derive particular kinds of information, cores and cuttings are subjected to a wide variety of analytical techniques, including simple visual inspection, X-raying, CT scans, thin sections, and permeability tests. Ice cores and sediment cores are collected primarily because they preserve a record of past environmental change. For example, sediment cores from the ocean floor can reveal changes in ocean chemistry and, indirectly, temperature through time. Ice cores preserve ancient air bubbles, among many other useful records, allowing the determination of former levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) against which modern levels can be compared (see Sidebar 1-7). Our understanding of global change is grounded in the discoveries made from collecting ice and sediment cores and the historical record unlocked by those discoveries. After cores are taken at the drill site, they usually are stored in cardboard or wooden boxes. Volume commonly is expressed as the number of boxes, or, in the case of ice and sediment cores, the number of tubes. Boxes vary considerably in size, as does the amount of core each contains. A widely used box size is approximately 3 feet long and holds three to five 3-foot lengths of rock core (9 to 15 linear feet, total) side by side within the box. Segments of ice and sediment cores are stored singly in 3-foot-long tubes. Depending on the density of the rock, sediment, or ice, each container can weigh 35 to 50 pounds. While rock cores require limited special treatment, the containers for ice and sediment must be airtight and sufficiently cold throughout transport and storage. Not all drill holes produce core, but almost all produce cuttings. Cuttings are the chips of rock that come up the outside of the drill pipe when using any type of rotating drill bit. Cuttings are samples of the rock through which the drill bit has cut, hence their name (see Figures 3-2 and 3-3). Huge amounts of cuttings have been produced and collected from various wells drilled over the decades (see Table 2-1). Holes that produce only cuttings are cheaper and quicker to produce and collect than holes that produce cores and cuttings. This is because not all cuttings are sampled and because cuttings flow to the surface during continuous drilling, as op-
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril FIGURE 3-1 Examples of where geoscience data and collections are housed, arranged from large (top) to small (bottom). Archives in the private sector has two subgroups—that in which data and collections are publicly available, and that in which they are proprietary. Some proprietary holdings are maintained by public repositories, but these are uncommon and comprise only a fraction of a percentage of the overall holdings. posed to cores, which have to be hauled to the surface between active-drilling times. When cuttings arrive at the surface, they are collected either with the surrounding drilling mud or screened out of the drilling mud and saved for later laboratory processing. Cuttings washed free of drilling mud are dried and stored in small (about 2- by 3-inch) envelopes, categorized by the depth from which they were gathered. Although comparatively cheap and quick, cuttings still yield important information about the character and age of the rock penetrated during drilling. The use of cuttings has been somewhat limited (compared with cores), however, because of their tendency to mix with adjacent cuttings during their trip from the drill bit to the surface and because of their small size (individual cuttings typically are 1/4 inch and smaller). Mixing somewhat diminishes the ability to pick precise depths of important rock units or other features of interest. The small size of individual cuttings hides recognition of some larger important features (especially fractures). Sidebar 1-6 describes new techniques being developed to extract additional information from fluid inclusions found in cuttings. Several major non-industry projects generate significant amounts of core for basic scientific exploration of Earth’s crust or ice sheets. These scientific drilling programs include the Ocean Drilling Project (ODP), Drilling, Observation, and Sampling of the Earth’s Continental Crust (DOSECC, 1998), Antarctic (WAIS, 2000) and Greenland (ARCSS, 2002) ice-coring projects. The ODP and ice-coring projects serve as excellent examples of research communities that understand the importance of hard-won core and plan for adequate access and maintenance (see chapter 4). Rock cores and cuttings are held by petroleum companies, other natural-resource companies, the USGS, state agencies, individual researchers at colleges or universities,
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril FIGURE 3-2 Coring and cutting devices. SOURCE: Baker Hughes, 2001. FIGURE 3-3a Cores from Potter Mines, Matheson, Ontario. These cores were retrieved from a depth of 623 to 629 meters (2,044 to 2,064 feet). Each core box contains 3 meters (10 feet). SOURCE: Millstreams Mines, Ontario, Canada. FIGURE 3-3b Cuttings. SOURCE: Baker, 1980. Petroleum Extension Service, The University of Texas at Austin.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-1 C&M Storage Inc. C&M Storage Inc. is a private, for-profit company in Schulenberg, Texas, whose primary business is to facilitate the proprietary storage and retrieval of cores and cuttings collected by client petroleum companies. The facility which services 65 private companies, shuttles cores, cuttings, and other samples to and from Houston, 80 miles away, twice a week to an average of 21 clients.a In addition, C&M Storage provides its clients with onsite services that include inventory management, core slabbing, and geochemical sample preservation. Current storage includes more than 1 million boxes of core, cuttings, thin-section slides, paper well logs, tapes, maps, and microfiche. About 90 percent of the stored materials are cores and cuttings. C&M Storage has an annual budget of between $1 million and $2 million. Storage capacity is currently at 268,300 square feet and is expanding at a rate of about 10,000 square feet per year, sufficient to house about 125,000 new boxes of core each year. Storage facilities include a number of uninsulated, wood-framed, sheet-metal buildings constructed on leveled ground with a crushed stone flooring base. In addition, specialized storage facilities, totaling about 11,500 square feet, have been built with climate-control capability to house fragile materials and documents. As existing storage capacity is filled, additional onsite acreage remains for constructing similar buildings, each with 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of storage capacity. Facilities to lay out core for examination, with limited microscope and computer access, also exist. It is noteworthy that individual clients—not C&M Storage Inc.—make decisions on accession or deaccession of material. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) Active, supportive clientele; (2) low capital costs; (3) core, cuttings, samples owned by companies who pay for maintenance, access, service, and propriety; (4) room for growth and expansion. The committee visited C&M Storage in August, 2001. SOURCE: Robert Shafer, C&M Storage Inc., personal communication, 2001. a 61 of the 65 clients are located in Houston. C&M Storage Inc. from the air. SOURCE: American Images, Marshfield, Wisconsin. private storage companies under contract to petroleum and other natural-resource companies, environmental and engineering companies, and, to a much lesser degree, museums, university departments, and various municipal agencies. Most core facilities are owned and managed by the owner of the core; however, some cooperative ventures have proven successful. C&M Storage Inc. in Schulenberg, Texas, is an example of one of the largest such facilities (see Sidebar 3-1). It houses cores and samples from 65 companies and operates as a shared rental facility. Government’s Current Role There are no state or federal requirements for the collection or retention of core or cuttings from wells drilled on public lands for oil, gas, or mineral exploration or research. DOE, which has several major drilling projects, such as the one at Yucca Mountain, has no formal policy dealing with the deposition or retention of cores. Most of DOE’s research and development is performed by contractors whom DOE may ask, on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that cores and
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril other data are maintained and publicly available (Edith Allison, DOE, personal communication, 2002). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required to retain core for a fixed length of time (see chapter 2), after which the risk of loss is high. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) uses geoscience data in a variety of ways. This includes evaluating data collected by applicants, licensees, and their contractors, who submit geoscience information to the USNRC to support proposed licensing and decommissioning activities. USNRC staff and contractors also conduct independent sampling, testing, and analyses to confirm information submitted by licensees, to provide guidance, and to develop regulations in accordance with U.S. laws and policies. The USNRC retains geoscience data and information included in licensing documentation submitted for docketing, such as maps, imagery, trench and borehole logs, geophysical and seismological measurements, data sheets from modeling and analyses, field notebooks, and reports. However, the USNRC has no facilities to store and does not retain physical geoscience data from licensees, such as drill core and cuttings, rocks, mineral and water samples, and specimens used in lab tests. Applicants and licensees may be required under USNRC regulations to maintain documented results of tests, analyses, and evaluations and to retain geoscience data and collections. Retention varies from a specified period to the lifetime of the facility (e.g., Code of Federal Regulations Title 10, Part 50, Appendix B, Quality Assurance [QA] Criteria for Nuclear Power Plants and Fuel Reprocessing Plants). The USNRC’s Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA), which is an independent, federally funded research and development center supporting USNRC’s high-level radioactive waste regulatory program, also is required by the USNRC to follow Part 50, Appendix B, QA requirements. Other USNRC contractors and consultants such as national laboratories, geotechnical and groundwater sampling and testing companies, or the USGS may store or preserve geoscience materials at their discretion or under their respective organization’s requirements, if any (Philip Justus, USNRC, personal communication, 2002). The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires cores to be retained by NSF-funded drilling projects, and the NSF Division on Earth Sciences has a general policy on preservation (NSF/EAR, 2002; see Appendix G) as does U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP, 1991). Unfortunately, item number 8 of NSF/EAR’s general policy allows decisions on repositing and retaining geoscience data and collections to be made by a single person (the program officer) within the foundation. Requiring principal investigators to report disposition of federally funded geoscience data and collections, and requiring external reviewers and review panels to evaluate this aspect of previous research, would ensure that data and collections would be accessible to the general public. Ice cores collected with funding from NSF’s Office of Polar Programs enter into the public domain timed on a project-by-project basis (NICL-SMO, 2000). The USGS Core Research Center in Lakewood, Colorado, which houses core from 31 states, is the only national repository for publicly accessible core in the United States (see Sidebar 3-2). Unfortunately, the staff must discourage or turn down offers of many collections because of space limitations and inability to absorb the additional workload (Tom Michalski, USGS, personal communication, 2001). SIDEBAR 3-2 USGS Core Research Center at the Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, Colorado Founded in 1974, the USGS Core Research Center houses approximately 1.1 million feet of core from 31 states, approximately 95 percent of which was donated by petroleum and mining companies. It currently houses the entire state collections of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming (with no compensation for doing so), as well as other federal agencies and universities. The facility also houses 15,000 thin sections and 50,000 well cuttings from collections from 27 states. The collection represents 44,507 miles of drilling with an estimated replacement cost of at least $10 billion (NRC, 1999a). The center staff of three serves 1500 to 2000 visitors annually. The center has an annual budget of $275,000 for salaries, benefits, and operating expenses, and pays $550,000 annually in rent. Decisions on accession and deaccession of geologic material are made by the manager of the facility, with input from USGS scientists. Although the USGS core facility serves a very important purpose, under-funding and limited remaining storage capacity (10 percent) are ongoing concerns. Indeed, in 1995, the available space at that time was reduced by 40 percent. The center also is understaffed. Following USGS’s 1995 reduction in force, the staffing level has declined from eight to three full-time employees (Tom Michalski, personal communication, 2001). Nonetheless, the facility serves as a vital resource for industry, federal, and university scientists. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) state, federal, and private collections; (2) relatively large and complete regional holdings; (3) good examination and screening space; (4) good clientele support. The Committee visited the USGS Core Research Center in June 2001.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril Two government-funded projects that provide excellent models for preservation of cores in the public sector are the Ocean Drilling Program (Sidebar 3-3) and the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) (Sidebar 2-11). The latter is housed in the same large building as the USGS Core Research Center in Lakewood, Colorado (Sidebar 3-2). Many, but not all, state geological surveys also maintain core repositories of varying size. The cores in these facilities usually are acquired as a result of regulatory compliance on the part of resource companies active in the state, or via donations. Most geological surveys acquire geoscience data and collections from their state alone, although some acquire regional data. Responses to the committee’s questionnaire (see Appendix B) indicate that these repository facilities vary from climate-controlled warehouses to cargo containers on gravel pads. The facilities of the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG), University of Texas, represent the largest of the state geological surveys (Sidebar 3-4). Of particular note is the success of integrating two geographically disparate facilities into one management structure. This distribution resulted from Shell Oil’s donation of its Midland facility to the BEG, along with its contents (Sidebar 2-2). Such a model serves as a viable public–private partnership for future transfers of geoscience data and collections to the public sector. Another example of successful partnerships is the Alaska Geologic Materials Center, which serves as the state repository and operates under memoranda of understanding with a range of government agencies to preserve of geoscience data and collections (Sidebar 3-5). Summary of the State of Cores and Cuttings Until recently, most large petroleum companies held their cores and cuttings in large company warehouses. However, with increasing pressure to search for extractable resources in offshore and international settings, along with a trend toward mergers and consolidations, many have begun to consider disposing of domestic geoscience data and collections to save costs. For example, a number of transfers of cores from industry-owned storage to other repositories already have occurred (see Table 2-2). In other instances, cores and cuttings simply have been discarded (see for example Sidebars 2-3 and 2-5). The sheer bulk of rock cores in particular is the main threat to their preservation. They occupy space and are difficult to move cheaply.1 It is in the industrial sector that large numbers of cores and cuttings are at the greatest risk of being lost. The ODP and the NICL are examples of scientific communities coming together and working with federal agencies to preserve cores from their respective scientific disciplines of oceanography and glaciology. However, long-term sources of funding to maintain these and other repositories are ongoing concerns. The rock-core community offers examples of cooperative efforts as well (e.g., C&M Storage, BEG), but these tend to be isolated instances. Some government repositories that hold rock core are under-funded or under-staffed (e.g., USGS; see Sidebar 3-2), or have no policy for retaining core in the long term (e.g., USACE; see Chapter 2), or have core at risk of being lost (e.g., DOE; see Sidebar 2-10). MEDIA CONTAINING SUBSURFACE DATA Data collected from below Earth’s surface can be divided into data collected from or associated with drilled wells, and data acquired by other means. Data from wells are commonly recorded as well logs or geophysical logs— paper or electronic records of measured observations or tests made on the rocks through which the drill passed— and include measures of an increasingly large array of physical parameters (see Table 3-2). These tests reveal much about the nature of the rocks that might not be apparent from cores or cuttings. Seismic data result from sending vibrations (produced by explosions or mechanical devices) into Earth. Different layers beneath the surface reflect these vibrations back to the surface in different ways, which allow scientists to develop a picture of Earth’s structure below its surface across wide areas. Although much of the early subsurface data is of lower quality than data gathered with new technologies today, they are very useful for helping to plan a more efficient collecting strategy using new techniques. In other words, old logs and seismic tapes can be used to determine whether additional cost, time, and effort are required in a given area, or whether that area clearly has no potential for resources. (Resources would include such things as minerals, oil, water, clay, sand and gravel, limestone, and even diamonds.) The majority of subsurface data was and is collected by industry, with smaller but still significant amounts collected by government and academic researchers (see Table 2-1). For example, the latter groups collect a majority of their seismic data as a result of earthquake activity, but use the same collectors and processes to determine the occurrence of explosions triggered by underground bomb tests. Various collections of raw and test data such as seismic, well log, and petrophysical data, including porosity and permeability tests, are created and held by petroleum companies, environmental and engineering companies, geological surveys, federal agencies, individual researchers at colleges or universities, and private data-storage companies. Some of the largest holders of these data collections include IHS (Information Handling Services), formerly Petroleum Information/Dwights, a commercial operation based upon the reuse of geoscience data (IHS Energy Group, 2002). Their data are used widely by groups in the petroleum industry, govern- 1 The cost of inventorying and physically handling cores during a move varies, but $10 per box is typical (Robert Shafer, C&M Storage Inc., personal communication, 2001).
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-3 Ocean Drilling Program Facilities The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) is an international scientific drilling endeavor sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and 21 participating countries. The prime contractor for the program is Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI), Inc., a private, non-profit corporation based in Washington, D.C. JOI Inc. was established in 1976 to manage cooperative research programs for the international oceanographic community under the oversight of a consortium of 14 U.S. academic and research institutions. Data gathered by the ODP are proprietary to the members of the appropriate drilling leg scientific party for 1 year after sample collection and are then released to the public domain. The ODP and its predecessor, the Deep Sea Drilling Program (DSDP), store cores in four repositories. The Gulf Coast Repository (GCR) at Texas A&M University in College Station maintains more than 140,000 meters (459,318 feet) of ODP core obtained from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Its operational costs in fiscal year 2001 were $152,204. The West Coast Repository (WCR), at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, maintains 130,960 meters (429,659 feet) of DSDP core from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The WCR was funded for $147,527 in fiscal year 2001. The East Coast Repository (ECR), at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, maintains more than 80,000 meters (262,467 feet) of ODP and DSDP core. The ECR was funded for $261,467 in fiscal year 2001. The Bremen Core Repository (BCR) at the University of Bremen, Germany, maintains more than 72,000 meters (234,000 feet) of ODP cores obtained from the Atlantic and Southern Arctic Oceans. Curation costs for the Office of the Curator, which oversees all the ODP repositories, were funded at $133,030 in fiscal year 2001. Storage and maintenance of ODP material will continue through fiscal year 2004 when these materials will be transferred to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The facilities have planned to have enough space to accommodate additional cores from the next 2 years of drilling, and will maintain the cores an additional year, to allow the IODP time to arrange their storage plans. Refrigerated storage at the GCR is shown below. The Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES) science advisory structure is responsible for the provision of scientific advice and guidance to ODP management. The science advisory structure is composed of the JOIDES Executive Committee and a number of scientific and technical advisory committees and panels (see Figure 4-1). The advisory structure office (the JOIDES Office), which rotates between U.S. and overseas institutions at 2-year intervals, currently is located at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami. Texas A&M University, as the program’s science operator, manages the drillship (JOIDES Resolution) operations, shipboard staffing, data collection, core curation, and publications. The Borehole Research Group at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is responsible for providing downhole geophysical logging services, such as collecting, processing, and distributing logging data. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) wide (geographic) and diverse clientele; (2) community- and user-based science advisory committee; (3) common-sense regional repositories with good, regionally based holdings; (4) private, state, and federal consortium; (5) research-community emphasis on timely publication of results from collections studies and citations of collections use; (6) adequate funding (as of 2001). SOURCE: Frank Rack, JOI, personal communication, 2001. Interior of the Ocean Drilling Program GCR, College Station, Texas. Each box contains a partial length of a single core. SOURCE: Ocean Drilling Program.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-4 Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin The BEG Core Research Center (see photograph below) is a large state repository containing more than 1.2 million boxes of core and cuttings. Two facilities administered by the University of Texas comprise the center: one in Austin (93,000 square feet) and one in Midland (45,500 square feet). The buildings include research facilities for study and observation. The collection is growing by about 2,000 boxes per year, but three large donations (626,000 boxes) substantially increased the volume very quickly. The core repositories, which cost about $350,000 per year to operate, employ two full-time staff members in Midland and four in Austin. The Geophysical Log Facility in Austin contains more than 800,000 geophysical logs and is growing by 14,000 logs per year. The committed 6,085 square feet of space will have to be reorganized to accommodate growth. The cost of operation for the Geophysical Log Facility is $150,000 per year. State law mandates maintenance of these facilities. The BEG estimates that 80 people per month request logs and about 400 people annually use the core repository. Most of the inventory is catalogued, but it is difficult to keep up with the influx of data. Data are acquired through donations and by official record submittal as required by law. Data rarely are refused, but available space is declining and currently stands at about 10 percent. Funding comes from a state-appropriated account, but other funds come from American Petroleum Institute, DOE, and endowment funds established by Shell Oil Company to provide care for their large donated collection (see Sidebar 2-2). BEG is an excellent model of partnerships serving regional needs. It combines state funding with federal grants and donations from private industry to preserve and make accessible geoscience data and collections to the public. The donation from Shell Oil also enables the company and others to maintain access to their geoscience data indefinitely at little or no additional cost. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) state, federal, and private support; (2) endowment for some parts of holdings; (3) on-line information about some holdings; (4) good examination and screening space; (5) large, relatively complete holdings of regional importance; (6) state mandate and support to maintain facilities. The committee visited BEG in August 2001. SOURCE: George Bush, Sigrid Clift, William Fisher, Daniel Ortuño, Douglas Ratcliff, and Scott Tinker, Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, personal communication, 2001. Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin. Flexible-space shelving like this allows storage of cores (right third of photograph), cuttings (left two-thirds of photograph), and other items of various shapes and sizes. SOURCE: David Stephens, BEG, University of Texas at Austin.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-5 Alaska Geologic Materials Center The Alaska Geologic Materials Center (GMC), Eagle River, Alaska, retains geologic materials from industry and state agencies. In addition, the GMC has agreements with the BLM, USGS, and MMS to archive their rock materials. The GMC holds collections of cores and cuttings from 1,250 oil and gas wells, 920 holes representing 145 mineral prospects and developments, 4 wells representing a geothermal prospect, and 12 holes representing two proposed dam sites on the Susitna River, in addition to a range of other geologic information. A 1982 agreement between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the USGS established the GMC. In the original agreement, the value of the collection was stated as “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Core and other samples from the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska were among the initial samples preserved in the GMC. Catalogs of all materials are available on computers at the center, though not on the Internet. The facility has 9,000 square feet of heated space, but also makes extensive use of large unheated transport (CONNEX) containers for storage of materials, and can expand by purchasing additional containers and shelving. Costs of operating the GMC (a minimum of $110,000 per year) are borne primarily by the state, with additional support from industry donations. Major upgrades have been achieved using federal funds ($300,000 in 1984 from the USGS, and $460,000 in 1999 from the BLM). In 2000, 72 percent of users of the GMC were from industry (oil, gas, and coal), 10 percent were from government agencies, and 18 percent were from academia and the public. No user fees are charged, but clients from industry must cover costs of processing materials. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) state, federal, and private holdings; (2) state, federal, and private support; (3) some cost-recovery from industry users; (4) relatively complete holdings of regional importance. SOURCE: John Reeder and Debbie Patskowski, GMC, personal communication, 2001, 2002. ment agencies, and others. The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS, 2002) is an example of a consortium approach for seismic data retention, assimilation, and use. Government’s Current Role Government regulatory agencies frequently require filing of at least some subsurface data from oil and gas exploration (though not cores or cuttings). The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fluid Minerals Division, for example, requires deposit of completion records and logs for wells drilled on federal lands. These data reside in approximately 50 BLM offices around the country and are accessible only within the BLM. They are part of the Automated Fluid Mineral Support System, but there is no overall index for this system (Duane Spencer, BLM, personal communication, 2001). The BLM Solid Minerals Division is responsible for coal, uranium, and other leasable solid mineral exploration on federal lands. This does not apply to lands acquired by “claim” (non-leasable or metallic minerals). According to statute (43 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 3484.1(a)(4)), the lessee “shall retain for 1 year, unless a shorter time period is authorized by the authorized office, all drill and geophysical logs and make logs available for inspection or analysis by the authorized officer, if requested.” The “authorized officer, at his discretion, may require the operator/lessee to retain representative samples of drill cores for 1 year.” There is thus no requirement for permanent data storage of any type. According to the BLM, “a database for coal lease and reserve information called the Solid Leasable Minerals System was developed in the mid-1980s, but discontinued in 1995 due to telecommunications problems and issues concerning the protection of confidential data” (James Edwards, BLM, personal communication, 2001). The USGS uses BLM data in its assessments of national coal resources. To complete the most recent assessment (in 1999), USGS staff commonly traveled to individual BLM offices and obtained hard copies of maps of coal outcrops and mines on BLM lands because limited digital data were available at that time (Suzanne Weedman, USGS, personal communication, 2002). The Minerals Management Service (MMS) requires the submission of completion records in hardcopy form for oil and gas wells drilled on the continental shelf (pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf [OCS] Lands Act, as amended [43 U.S. Code 1331], and MMS regulations 30 CFR § 250, 30 CFR § 251, and 30 CFR § 280). Basic well log information is kept for 2 years and 60 days, or until the lease expires, whichever comes first. Beginning in 1976, seismic survey data are held for 25 years before being released. The first
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril TABLE 3-2 Physical Parameters Recorded in Well Logs Well Log Parameter(s) Recorded, Interpreted, or Inferred Spontaneous potential (SP) Formation water resistivity; to detect permeable beds and bed thickness, shale lithology and amount Resistivity, deep True formation resistivity; to determine water and hydrocarbon saturation of a formation away from the mud invaded zone Resistivity, shallow Formation resistivity of the mud-invaded zones; to define bed boundaries Resistivity, microresistivity Formation resistivity of the drilling mud-flushed zones; to delineate permeable beds and their thickness Dipmeter, microresistivity Direction and angle of formation dips, structural and stratigraphic relationships of formation bed; for accurate definition of bed thickness and boundaries Borehole caliper Diameter of the borehole; location of porous and permeable zones Natural gamma ray Lithology and volume of shale Induced nuclear radiation: Gamma-gamma Bulk density; to deduce formation porosity Neutron Hydrogen content; to deduce formation porosity Pulsed neutron (cased hole log) Water saturation; to monitor production performance over time Electromagnetic propagation (EPT) Saturation of flushed zone and percentage of water-filled porosity Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) Permeability and pore-size distribution, water held in clays and in fine pores; determine moveable fluids and complex lithology Acoustic (sonic) Travel time of a sonic wave through a formation; to deduce porosity, fractures, and vugs, seismic calibration, geopressure tops; rock consolidation, integrity of cement bond between pipe and the formation Temperature Formation temperature; to detect producing gas zones and fluid injection intervals Borehole televiewer TV picture of a borehole SOURCE: Adapted from Bradley, 1987; Serra, 1984. release occurred in 2001 (Gary Lore, MMS, personal communication, 2001). The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) does not generally accept raw and test data2 (such as subsurface data), given NARA’s current level of support in this area (NARA staff, personal communication, 2001). Nonetheless, a previous report on preserving scientific data noted specifically that “…a coordinated effort involving NARA, other federal agencies, certain nonfederal entities, and the scientific community is needed to preserve the most valuable data and ensure that they will remain available in usable form indefinitely” (NRC, 1995a, p. 32). In addition to federal requirements, states have various requirements for submission of data, as well. In Oklahoma and Kansas, for example, submission of only paper well logs is required. In Wyoming, digital submission of well logs is encouraged, but not compulsory (WOGCC, 2001a; see Sidebar 4-5). In contrast to the United States, some other countries have aggressive policies concerning public deposition and retention of many subsurface data (and cores) acquired from government and public lands (Sidebar 2-5). Summary of the State of Subsurface Data While, in terms of absolute numbers, the challenges related to preservation of subsurface data loom large, the situation is not so dire as might be expected. Some of these data are of such immediate- and short-term economic value that an entire industry has formed around its creation, re-sale, and use (for example, IHS and Veritas DGC, Inc. [Veritas, 2002]). The challenge lies in preserving data that, while still having value, pose difficulties for preservation because of their format or lack of current economic interest. Many of the older paper logs and tapes with seismic data fall into this category. PALEONTOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS Fossils are the remains or traces of living organisms from the geological past preserved in Earth’s crust. They include a huge variety of objects ranging from dinosaur bones and 2 However, NARA currently holds field notebooks from the Coast and Geodetic Survey containing topographic, hydrographic, astronomical, magnetic, or seismic data, depending on the particular survey. In total, NARA holds 3,367 linear feet of these records (committee survey response, 2001).
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril TABLE 3-3 The 17 Largest Fossil Collections in the United Statesa Entity Holdings by Amount (million specimens) National Museum of Natural History 31 Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsvilleb 10 University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley 5 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 4.5 American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 4 Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas, Austin 3.8 Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, California 3.5 Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York 3 Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville 2.6 Burke Museum of Natural History, University of Washington 2 University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor 2 Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois 1.3 U.S. Geological Survey Paleontological Collection, Lakewood, Colorado 1.2 Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1 Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1 University of Iowa Paleontological Collection, Iowa City 1 University of Kansas Paleontological Collection, Lawrence 0.8 aEstimated number of specimens at about the year 2000. No major natural history museum actually knows how many fossil specimens it has. Most institutions estimate their holdings by counting or estimating “lots” (a “lot” is a set of specimens collected in one place at one time, and can contain 1 or 10,000 specimens), and then using an average number of specimens per lot to estimate total number of specimens. The estimates in this table are based largely on a survey of major collections conducted in 1996 and updated in 1999–2000 (as reported in White and Allmon, 2000). Anecdotal evidence suggests that they may be incorrect by as much as 20 to 30 percent. bThis number is based on data on the VMNH website (VMNH, 2001). Most of these collections were transferred to VMNH from the USGS in Reston, Virginia, in 1996. This number is so much higher than those of other institutions that it suggests that a different technique was used in estimating. footprints to petrified wood to impressions of shells on large rock slabs to the remains of single-cell organisms mounted on microscope slides. Fossil collections conventionally are categorized by the type of organism (vertebrate, invertebrate, plant, microfossil) and organized either by type of organism (systematic or taxonomic collections) or by age (stratigraphic collections). Collections of fossil bones or trackways of animals may consume large amounts of space, whereas collections of microfossils mounted on slides typically occupy much less space. Commercial trade in fossils has increased considerably in recent years. Large collections are now frequently assembled by individuals via purchase, and a large volume of fossils is held and handled by full- and part-time fossil dealers (see e.g., Morell, 1998).3 Institutions typically purchase fewer fossils than they acquire by other means, but when they do it is usually a single, special specimen (or a few of them) for special purposes, such as an exhibit, and for which funds have been specially donated. Few museums have acquisition budgets or space for the regular purchase of fossils. Fossils have been, and continue to be, collected for a variety of reasons, including industry’s exploration for fossil fuels, geological mapping, and basic research into the history of Earth and its life. Fossils are collected by exploration geologists looking for mineral resources or making geological maps; by college and university faculty and museum curators pursuing research on topics from the history and evolution of life to global climate change; by undergraduate and graduate students in the pursuit of their studies, especially in geology and biology; and by amateurs for recreation or self-education. In all of these cases, fossil collections serve as the archives and reference sources for such activities. Fossil collections are held by museums (state and federal government, college and university, private and semi-private), geological surveys (federal and state), colleges and universities, and private individuals (see Table 3-3). Many petroleum companies previously held fossil collections, but most of these have been transferred to museums or universities over the past decade, largely as a result of the general deemphasis on basic research in industry, combined with increasing use of outsourcing to consultants for industrial paleontological work. No studies have documented the strong suspicion of many paleontologists that the number of fossil collections being orphaned in the United States is increasing. Before the 1980s, orphaned collections were not widely discussed. Even after 3 The issues surrounding the commercial trade in fossils, and collecting of fossils for sale, particularly vertebrate fossils and especially those from public lands, are complex, contentious, and controversial. Recent accounts include Marston (1997), Davidson (1999), Simpson (2000), McFarling (2001), and Toner (2001).
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril the issue became widely discussed in the paleontological community in the mid-1990s, it remained difficult to quantify. Recent surveys suggest that more than half of the largest American collections contain adopted orphans acquired within the last 5 years. These orphaned collections represent millions of specimens (White and Allmon, 2000; see also Table 3-4). Government’s Current Role The federal government’s current role in managing paleontological collections falls into four categories: responsibility for collections made by federal agencies on federal lands; regulating fossil collecting by the public on federal lands; support for non-federal collections (via the NSF); and mandate and funding for the USGS and the NMNH (see Sidebar 2-9). Federal Collections The issue of caring for collections made on federal lands under federal auspices is broader than just fossils; it includes consideration of materials ranging from Native American artifacts to plants to zoological specimens. How to manage these federal collections has been the subject of considerable recent attention from federal land managers, museum curators, and professional scientists (for a summary, see Faul-Zeitler, 1998). Many issues remain to be resolved. As far as fossils are concerned, although neither the USGS nor the NMNH currently perceives an obligation to house or care for all fossils collected by federal agencies on federal lands (see Sidebar 2-9), there is increasing interest on the part of other agencies—such as the NPS, USFS, and BLM—to care for fossils collected on lands under their respective jurisdictions (see, e.g., Sledge, 1998). There have also been some recent efforts to coordinate consideration and solution of fossil management issues among several of these agencies (e.g., informal interagency working groups and sessions at professional meetings). TABLE 3-4 Paleontological Collections in the United States at Risk of Becoming Endangered or Orphaned in the Next Decade Type of Collection Holder Estimated Number of Specimens Industry 10 million Colleges and universities 1 million–5 million Individuals 6 million–60 million SOURCE: Data obtained from Allmon, 1997. Collecting on Federal Lands Considerable public, scientific, and legislative debate has taken place over the past decade about the regulations covering collecting of fossils by the public on federal lands (Department of the Interior, 1999; Pojeta, 2000; Secretary of the Interior, 2000). This issue frequently is linked to discussions of the commercial trade in fossils, especially those collected from public lands. Some opinions strongly support the notion of somehow regulating access at least to rare paleontological materials found on federal lands. Equally strong opinions counter that if non-professional paleontologists (including commercial collectors) are not allowed to collect freely on federal lands, many valuable fossils may be lost to science. It is too early to forecast a national consensus on this contentious issue. Support for Non-Federal Collections For several decades the National Science Foundation has provided modest support for curation and storage of fossil collections at museums, colleges, and universities. Since 1998, NSF has provided approximately $6 million in grants for support of paleontological collections. This has been divided among three programs in biology. The Biological Research Collections program has provided $3,368,456 for direct support of paleontological collections; the Systematic Biology program has provided $2,202,398 in support of research using paleontological collections; and funds from the Biotic Surveys program, totaling $362,979, have supported fieldwork for contribution of specimens to paleontological collections (Larry Page and Cindy Lohman, NSF, personal communication, 2002). For most non-federal repositories, NSF is by far the single largest source of funds for collections support, including shelving systems, staff, and supplies. The Earth Sciences Program at NSF provides no direct support for geoscience collections (H. Richard Lane, NSF, personal communication, 2001). Summary of the State of Paleontological Collections Taken altogether, fossil collections in the United States are probably the largest of any nation (Allmon, 1997). Overall, U.S. collections are probably also among the world’s best curated. They have, for the most part, not suffered the ravages of neglect, war, and poverty that have afflicted collections in many other countries (Allmon, 2000). Consequently, U.S. fossil collections are visited and studied by scientists from almost every nation in the world. U.S. fossil collections, however, are at a crossroads. They have grown beyond the capacity for existing repositories and institutions to care for them adequately. Priorities have changed among
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril some of the organizations (e.g., petroleum companies, many colleges and universities, the USGS) that previously cared for them. Yet their importance has never been greater; they continue to serve as fundamental tools for solving societal problems, such as petroleum exploration and studies of global change. ROCK AND MINERAL COLLECTIONS Rock and mineral collections include samples collected in the exploration for natural resources, research, geological mapping, teaching, or aesthetics. Sidebar 3-6 illustrates a striking unanticipated use for a rock collection. Mining companies, museums, state and federal agencies, colleges and universities, and individual collectors have all assembled major collections (see Sidebar 3-7, for example), and some of the sources of these collections are now reclaimed, flooded, or otherwise inaccessible (Paul Bartos, Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, personal communication, 2001). Ore collections, composed of representative samples of different rock types containing metals and other materials, have long been basic teaching tools in colleges and universities. Unfortunately, many universities, including California Institute of Technology, Lehigh University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and Princeton University have closed their collections (A. Sicree, Pennsylvania State University, personal communication, 2001). SIDEBAR 3-6 The Merrill Collection of Building Stones In 1880 the Census Office and the National Museum in Washington, D.C., conducted a study of building stones of the United States and collected a set of reference specimens from working quarries. This collection of stones, augmented with building stones from other countries, was then displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1942, a committee was appointed to consider whether any worthwhile use could be made of the collection. It decided that a study of actual weathering on such a great variety of stone would provide valuable information in future construction projects. In 1948, a test wall was constructed at the National Bureau of Standards site in Washington, D.C. (see the image below). The wall offers a rare opportunity to study the effects of weathering on different types of building stones, with the climatic conditions being the same for all materials. It offers a comparative study of the durability of many common building stones used in monuments and commercial and government buildings. SOURCE: NIST, 2001; Razand and Stutzman, 2001. Building stone exposure and test wall, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C. The wall was developed by D. W. Kessler and R. E. Anderson, September 1951. SOURCE: NIST, 2001.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-7 Reno Sales–Charles Meyer–Anaconda Memorial Collection The Reno Sales–Charles Myer–Anaconda Memorial collection (also known as the Anaconda Rock and Mineral Research Collection) consists of more than 80,000 rock and mineral specimens documenting geologic information throughout the Butte, Montana, mining district. In the 1880s, Butte was the world’s biggest copper producer, as well as a significant producer of lead, zinc, gold, silver, and manganese. In addition, specimens in the collection were assembled by Anaconda Copper Mining Company geologists, documenting their travels to other major mining districts throughout the world. The collection is named in recognition of Reno Sales and Charles Meyer, two Anaconda geologists who assembled the collection. The collection is unique for its size and particularly because the majority of its specimens were collected in the now-inaccessible underground Butte mines. Not until the 1950s did the Anaconda Copper Company move away from labor-intensive underground mining with the opening of the Berkeley Pit, one of the world’s largest open-pit mining operations at the time. Mining ceased in the pit in 1982. Today the pit is longer than a mile, nearly a mile wide, and 1,800 feet deep and filled with water. The Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) bought Anaconda’s holdings in Butte in the 1970s, and the collection was moved in 1999 to a newly constructed facility near the campus of Montana Tech, which made the collection available to the research community for the first time. The collection is administered by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, a department of the University of Montana. The remainder of the story typifies geoscience collections that are poorly documented. A large percentage of the specimens (possibly 80 or 90 percent) is not adequately documented, and therefore is of little value for research. For example, a specimen labeled “silver ore from Borneo” is little more than a curiosity or possibly an educational specimen. With inadequate cataloging and the resultant inability of interested parties to discover the full scope of the collection, the bureau has found it increasingly difficult to invest limited state resources in the collection, however rare or valuable, since it is not being used. SOURCE: Deal et al., 1999; Shovers et al., 1991. Government’s Current Role No requirements exist at the federal or state level for repositing samples of rocks or minerals gathered on public lands. Collectors prize choice mineral specimens, and the public generally appreciates them. Nonetheless, non-specialists commonly view rocks and ores, which are frequently the most economically valuable, as pedestrian and of little value. Consequently, they are given low priority when allotting scarce storage space. The Smithsonian Institution has one of the largest collections of rocks and minerals in the world with more than three-quarters of a million specimens. Its acquisition method is fairly typical of geoscience collections, deriving primarily from donations from other government agencies, industry, and private collectors. NSF’s Earth Sciences Program provides no support for maintenance or care of rock, mineral, or ore collections. However, the Office of Polar Programs does provide support for the Antarctic meteorite collection, which is housed at the Smithsonian Institution (Timothy McCoy, NMNH, personal communication, 2002). Summary of the State of Rock and Mineral Collections Although rock and mineral collections do not represent a large percentage of the geoscience data and collections at risk, they nonetheless represent one of the most neglected categories in terms of preservation. Few government agencies collect these materials, and decreasing numbers of universities maintain teaching collections. Although NSF provides some funding for the curation of paleontological collections, it typically does not do so for rock and mineral collections. OTHER DATA AND DOCUMENTATION In addition to physical specimens and data that may be collected as a result of geoscience research and exploration, essential documentation for geoscience projects also includes a wide variety of materials maintained in many different forms and media. Usually unique, these documentary materials may include maps, photographs, field notes, laboratory notebooks, and reports. These materials add essential value in the analysis of geoscience data and collections by providing the nature and context of the research, the data, and the physical samples created or collected as a result of the project. If the geoscience research was government-sponsored, the federal agency (or agencies) conducting the research is initially responsible for maintaining all these documentary materials for their immediate business and research needs. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is required by law to analyze the long-term historical or other
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-8 Examples of Government Holdings of Documentation USGS Field Records Library, Lakewood, Colorado The Field Records Collection is an archive of materials created or collected by USGS scientists during field studies and other work in the contiguous United States since 1879. Materials in the collection include: field notes, sketches and maps, aerial photographs, analysis reports, stratigraphic logs, and geologic cross-sections (see USGS, nd). USGS Photographic Library, Lakewood, Colorado The USGS Photographic Library archives photographs taken by USGS scientists from the 1870s onward. The collection of more than 300,000 photographs includes earth science subjects, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and geologic hazards, as well as portraits of USGS personnel and 19th century mining operations (see USGS, nd). National Mine Map Repository The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) maintains a National Mine Map Repository (NMMR). The NMMR primarily contains maps of abandoned mines. Table 3-5 shows the current holdings by state. Unfortunately, the NMMR’s collection of maps continues to be built only through voluntary or informal arrangements with states and the federal government. Many of the maps that have not been reposited with the NMMR are single-copy, paper-only versions that are subject to catastrophic loss from fires, floods, or other events (see, for example, NRC, 2002 p.79). Coordinated digital archives of these maps and records would minimize their storage risks (NRC, 2002). SOURCE: NRC, 2002; Office of Surface Mining, 1997. TABLE 3-5 Holdings of the National Mine Map Repositorya State Number of Maps State Number of Maps State Number of Maps Alabama 353 Kentucky 4,587 North Dakota 5 Alaska 2 Louisiana 0 Ohio 7,703 Arizona 927 Maine 541 Oklahoma 731 Arkansas 360 Maryland 558 Oregon 333 California 232 Massachusetts 60 Pennsylvania 11,293 Colorado 7,036 Michigan 10,795 Rhode Island 0 Connecticut 475 Minnesota 3,066 South Carolina 54 Delaware 4 Mississippi 84 South Dakota 751 District of Columbia 0 Missouri 8,456 Tennessee 1,155 Florida 0 Montana 727 Texas 1 Georgia 743 Nebraska 0 Utah 647 Hawaii 0 Nevada 940 Vermont 114 Idaho 577 New Hampshire 230 Virginia 8,283 Illinois 2,670 New Jersey 378 Washington 502 Indiana 2,625 New Mexico 121 West Virginia 45,458 Iowa 2 New York 1,184 Wisconsin 504 Kansas 537 North Carolina 1,598 Wyoming 550 aAlthough its holdings are extensive, the NMMR has many gaps in its collection of maps of abandoned mines because of its voluntary and informal agreements with states and the federal government (NRC, 2002). For example, it is unlikely that the state of Texas has only one abandoned underground mine that has been mapped. SOURCE: Office of Surface Mining, 1997.
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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril SIDEBAR 3-9 Denver Earth Resources Library The Denver Earth Resources Library (DERL) is a private collection of petroleum industry–related documents, records, books, and maps, organized and stored in 11,000 square feet of commercial space in downtown Denver, Colorado. Records and documents kept at DERL are largely materials donated by major and independent oil companies and individuals. Data include geophysical surveys (seismic), well records, and completion cards. Access to the library data and materials is by membership, with annual dues, as well as with user fees charged to non-members. Student access for academic purposes is generally at no charge. On a typical day about 30 people use the facilities at the DERL. DERL is a successful, low-tech example of preservation of geoscience data. Data and records generally remain in the format in which they were donated (paper, film, microfiche, or digital). DERL’s consistent use implies a commercial niche in the Denver area for storage and access of regional geologic data of high quality and strategic value. Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) active, steady clientele support; (2) good regional holdings of paper, fiche, and other physical records. The committee visited DERL in June 2001. SOURCE: Kay Waller and Laura Mercer, DERL, personal communication, 2001. value4 of these materials and determine how long they should be kept beyond the agency’s immediate use. If the materials are permanently valuable, NARA will specify a transfer date and an archival repository. Federal documentary materials may not be destroyed, donated to other repositories, or maintained permanently by the originating agency without the approval of NARA (Yvonne Wilson, NARA, personal communication, 2002). Other representative government-housed collections are discussed in Sidebar 3-8. In addition to field notes, photographs, and maps, other types of data within the other data category include scout tickets (written descriptions of individual drill holes, including whether they produced hydrocarbons or not) and completion records (descriptions of the engineering characteristics of a given well). These kinds of data traditionally have been kept in paper or microfiche (see Sidebar 3-9), but increasingly are being collected and retained digitally. SUMMARY Geoscience data and collections are archived in a variety of settings around the country, and are collected by many entities within the government, academic, and private sectors, as well as by individuals. They are retained predominantly because they remain useful, or have potential for being useful. These collections can be bulky, particularly cores, which presents a challenge for retaining materials in general and rescuing those that remain valuable but are at risk. There is no federal government-wide coordination of standards for archiving, accession, or deaccession of federal geoscience materials. Yet there are several examples of difficulty in caring for federal collections with current funding levels. Commonly, the success stories the committee encountered were partnerships that had been established between various sectors. Less often, commercial viability led to archiving some geoscience data and collections. There are no set formulas for partners in successful collaborations: successful partnerships occur between the private and public sectors, between state and federal government, and between academia and government. A common element among all these partnerships is a broad user community sharing a common goal—to preserve and make available useful geoscience data and collections. 4 There is some very broad and general guidance on the appraisal of scientific records in Category 15a, “Scientific and Technical Data” of NARA (2002a). For example, category 15a states, “Generally data selected for permanent retention are unique, accurate, comprehensive, and complete, and they are actually or potentially applicable to a wide variety of research problems.” Because these published criteria are so broad in scope, NARA usually works with individual agencies on a case-by-case basis to appraise their scientific records to determine their disposition (Larry Baume, NARA, personal communication, 2002). Additional guidelines on appraisal are outlined in NARA (2002b).
Representative terms from entire chapter: