Thus far NOAA has been able to rely on ad hoc groups and the dedication of its personnel to provide reliable archiving and stewardship of essential data and to develop data access capabilities for specific user communities. For example, data managers at individual NOAA National Data Centers and centers of data have assumed many of the decision-making responsibilities for individual data sets. However, the recent and expected future increases in data volumes and complexity necessitate a highly coordinated, more defined process for managing the nation’s environmental data, as well as a comprehensive, user-centric framework to guide the ongoing development of NOAA’s data management activities.

The principles and guidelines in this report provide not only guidance for determining which data sets to retain and provide access to, but also a foundation on which to build a comprehensive data management plan. The next section presents one possible framework for data management at NOAA—based on a “system-of-systems” concept—along with some specific steps that describe how this framework could be implemented to take advantage of and extend existing data archiving, stewardship, and access capabilities. However, it should be noted that the principles and guidelines in previous chapters would remain applicable under any number of alternative data management frameworks. Also included at the end of this chapter are some concluding thoughts regarding the need for, and potential benefits of, a comprehensive, integrated, inclusive, and ongoing data management planning process across NOAA.


NOAA has already established a vision, illustrated in Figure 7-1, for an integrated, enterprise-wide data management system. The fundamental attribute of this system is the ability to link disparate data sources with the interdisciplinary applications in support of NOAA’s mission. However, this is an extremely difficult and complex task, made all the more challenging by the volume, complexity, and diversity of NOAA’s many data sets, the myriad needs of its diverse users, the constraints of limited resources, and the underlying need to preserve and support current data management and user support activities. It should also be noted that the connection between data and mission objectives ultimately depends on scientific analysis and interpretation of data, not just hardware and software. Thus, the challenge is to define an effective framework that fills in the details of the broad and amorphous “integrated data management system” at the center of Figure 7-1.

In addition to fulfilling the basic vision of connecting environmental data to NOAA’s mission goals, the integrated data management system should be designed to fully address the main functional elements (stew-

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