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Environmental Data Management at Noaa: Archiving, Stewardship, and Access
able and reliable infrastructure to support long-term access and preservation, preserving data access and archive integrity during media migration and software evolution, providing effective data support services and tools for users, and enhancing data and metadata by adding information that is established throughout the data life cycle.
Environmental data archives are not static collections, so data stewardship is an ongoing, iterative process involving users, servers, storage systems, software, interfaces, and analysis tools. Since analysis and usage can improve the accuracy and understanding of data and metadata, stewardship activities also include capturing these advances and carrying them forward for future generations. By adding a data management framework that maintains and improves the archive and ensures access and understanding for users, the stewardship function supplements and enhances data collection, spans data archiving and access, enables discovery and integration, and facilitates the realization of societal benefits. Together, these activities support the vision introduced in Global ChangeScience Requirements for Long-Term Archiving (USGCRP, 1999) of “a continuing program for the preservation and responsive supply of reliable and comprehensive data products and information on the Earth system for use in building new knowledge to guide public policy and business decisions.”
Stewardship should be a formal and emphasized component of NOAA’s data management planning process. In particular, each data set should have a designated data steward; in most cases, teams of skilled professionals with complementary skills are required to enable the level of stewardship needed to support NOAA’s mission. These teams include information technology, computer, database, and software specialists; disciplinary science experts; curators; project managers; and a variety of other professionals to support the full range of NOAA’s data management activities. Multidisciplinary teams are critical to stewardship, and it has been recommended that data technology specialists receive recognition for this work as “data scientists” (NSB, 2005). Since people retire and organizations evolve, the stewardship plan for each data set also needs to provide for the continuity of stewardship throughout the data life cycle, which can last many decades.
Even though our definition of data stewardship spans a broad range of data management activities and responsibilities, the remainder of this chapter focuses on three fundamental stewardship functions: data and metadata preservation, scientific assessment and improvement, and data support services and tools. In combination, these fundamental stewardship functions ensure that the archive is maintained and that the flow of