Not every recommendation made in this report can or should be implemented immediately. Some recommendations must build on the implementation of others; for example, development of a database structure that can support accessibility through the semantic web requires that NCSES obtain data from its contractors in different formats than are now received and that it define metadata to accompany the data elements. We therefore suggest a time-phased approach to improving data dissemination, focusing on five major initiatives:

  1. Change the means and content of the data received from contractors and actively participate in the development and implementation of the compatible metadata standard now being explored by W3C and the SCOPE project.
  2. Gain a better understanding of the needs of users of the data—those primary, secondary, and tertiary blocks of users—and then use the information to engage them in an effort to educate them and otherwise meet their needs.
  3. Conduct a continuous usability evaluation program, much akin to a program of continuous improvement that is part and parcel of any total quality management program.
  4. Provide data in retrievable formats and encourage private-sector providers and individual users to import the data into their visualization tools.
  5. Ensure full short- and long-term access to the data by updating its retrieval tools and ensuring proper archiving of its publications and database.

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