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Are NGDC’s performance measures appropriate for tracking progress in achieving results and for judging center funding?
How well does NGDC collect the data and information it needs to effectively conduct its activities?
How effectively does NGDC measure customer satisfaction?
The committee undertook the review from the perspective of the scientific user community. The following recommendations were based on analysis of background material prepared by NGDC, a site visit, discussions with NOAA managers and staff, and assessment of previous reviews of NGDC and other national data centers.
NGDC AT A GLANCE
NGDC was created in Boulder, Colorado, from disparate data programs within NOAA and predecessor organizations in 1965. This history is reflected in the center’s organizational structure, which is divided into four semi-autonomous divisions—marine geology and geophysics, solid earth geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics, and information services. Over the years the center’s holdings have grown and changed. For example, there is now less emphasis on seismology and more emphasis on ecosystems and natural hazards than there was at the center’s inception.
The center now holds 38 terabytes of data and serves tens of thousands of users. The base funding of $4.3 million is not sufficient to cover the payroll of both the permanent and contract staff and carry out the center’s responsibilities of acquiring data from agency programs and principal investigators; ensuring that the data are properly documented and assessed for quality; disseminating data, metadata, and information products to users; and archiving them for future generations of users. Budget shortfalls are made up through reimbursable work, mostly to NOAA and other government agencies.
MISSION AND VISION
Over the last decade NGDC’s base funding has remained flat while the number of users and the volume of data holdings have increased exponentially. During the same interval, base funding of the other NOAA data centers has increased, suggesting that NGDC has not effectively conveyed its mission and vision to NOAA. The problem is twofold. First, NGDC’s
The National Geophysical and Solar-Terrestrial Data Center [a previous name for NGDC] acquires, processes, archives, analyzes, and disseminates solid Earth and marine geophysical