verse communities can be brought together to plan the studies, rather than just being asked to approve or comment on what others have planned, there is a greater chance of a more holistic view of the goods and services of concern to society and thus the opportunity to design a more satisfactory science program that will enjoy long-term community support.
Management of data to ensure safekeeping and accessibility. Data management is crucial to a monitoring program because of the need for storing and retrieving large amounts of data (Weisberg et al., 2000). Large long-term scientific studies generate enormous amounts of data, data that must be useful far into the future. One fundamental aspect of data management is that it be designed specifically to support the central purpose of a long-term science program, that is, the comparison of measurements over long periods of time. First, it is essential that there be a mechanism for archiving data that will be durable and that permits data transfer from one storage medium to another as technological innovations appear. A second challenge is to support real-time sharing of data within the program, which is essential for collaboration and integration between disciplines and geographic subdivisions of the study. Third, there needs to be public access to data and data products so the broader community can assess the progress of “their” ecosystem study. Delivery of timely and appropriate data products will be essential if decision makers are to benefit from the program (Weisberg et al., 2000). The successful accomplishment of these three elements makes the data management program the heart of a large long-term scientific program.
Assessment of progress through synthesis and evaluation. Synthesis and evaluation are essential scientific activities. They provide information on whether a program is making progress toward testing hypotheses and in achieving an understanding of ecosystem function. Syntheses will require a variety of modeling efforts (conceptual, statistical, and numerical), and one should be aware that both the modeling of results and the acquisition of data will vary considerably between physical and biological aspects of the research program (Weisberg et al., 2000). Although generating syntheses of long-term data from these different disciplines is likely to be a challenge, doing so will be important to the long-term success of the GEM program.
This report is divided into sections that address the above elements and includes insights drawn from other long-term science plans regarding issues such as governance structures and data management. Finally, the committee summarizes its conclusions about planning the GEM program and provides recommendations to help guide its continued development.