focus of this chapter, but as a base for those discussions, we first explore the characteristics of NOAA’s data users.


One of the overarching principles introduced in Chapter 3 is that “data management activities should be user-driven.” The previous two chapters have noted the importance of user input for data stewardship and data archiving decisions. User input is also critical for driving the design, implementation, and maintenance of data access capabilities, particularly the crosscutting capabilities of data discovery and data integration. This section explores some general characteristics of NOAA’s user community that are important to consider when improving the data management system to promote extended or enhanced capabilities for data discovery, data access, and data integration.

Guideline: NOAA’s data access systems need to account for diverse user needs and capabilities.

Effective data access should be tailored to the needs and capabilities of different kinds of users. For example, the technical capabilities and scientific sophistication of NOAA’s user base ranges from elementary school children looking for temperature data near their house for a school project, to inexperienced users seeking highly specific weather and climate information for legal or business purposes, to experienced modelers looking for a large volume of well-calibrated data to test a physical parameterization, to multidisciplinary scientists seeking to project the combined effect of multiple environmental stresses on a particular ecosystem. Users may also prefer data in a particular format: ASCII data to import into a spreadsheet, JPEG images, or GIS-compatible formats, to name but a few. Access systems should strive to serve as many of these levels of scientific skill, technical sophistication, and packaging preferences as possible. One approach that has been successfully employed, which NOAA may wish to consider adopting, is to create several different access pathways for different user classifications, starting from the same access portal.1 A good example is the Archiving, Validation and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic data (AVISO) Web site.2


A web portal is a term, often used interchangeably with gateway, for a World Wide Web site whose purpose is to be a major starting point for users when they connect to the Web (Alexandrou, 2007).


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