improved application of standard translatable formats;
greater reliance on on-line data storage and network access;
more sophisticated database technologies;
expanded metadata management and lineage tracking; and
greater reliance on nonspecialized, easily available hardware and software solutions.
Data and metadata formats evolve as the priorities of data producers and users change. Although it is not possible to create a single standard format for data and metadata that meets the needs of every purpose for every dataset and user group, greater uniformity would make it easier for users to query, search, subset, access, and integrate data. In particular, using a standard format, such as XML, for metadata would enable some of these data to be generated automatically, stored in searchable databases, and easily translated among user applications.
Recommendation: With their user communities, data centers should accelerate work toward standardizing and making formats more transparent for data and metadata and thereby improve distribution and interoperability between data centers, between data centers and users, and between users. Metadata formatted in XML would assure that recipients would be able to parse data automatically and feed them directly to their applications.
Providing network access to datasets in an accessible directory hierarchy would ease access to and distribution of data. This approach vastly increases distribution efficiency when subsetting tools are also made available by the data center holding the dataset: users can treat datasets as local files and use subsetting tools to extract only the portions they need, thereby reducing the network bandwidth needed for the acquisition. Network bandwidth is already widely available for retrieval of large volumes of data. However, the use of network bandwidth for data delivery relies extensively on the ability to access data randomly and would require the implementation of suitable database management