determine the utility of these and other web-based efforts. Given the explosion of social media, the sense of the committee is that video podcasts are worth pursuing, when appropriate.
The committee acknowledged NAWQA’s data warehouse and other tools to bring raw water-quality data to the public as an accomplishment in Chapter 3. However, the data warehouse is not nearly as user-friendly as, for example, the SPARROW Decision Support System interface (Box 4-1). Perhaps this is the reason that the Customer Satisfaction Survey respondents rarely use the data warehouse. The volume of data and the associated supporting data and metadata continue to expand exponentially, and NAWQA needs to ensure that it has a process for keeping up with these data and providing them to users (within and outside the agency) in a coherent manner. The data warehouse interface design should be evaluated and improved, with significant user input as to what should be included and how it should be presented. It will also need constant updating and adjusting. Although the committee considers development of the data warehouse to be an accomplishment, further efforts to improve the data warehouse interface are needed.
NAWQA should also look for innovative ways to ensure that data interpretation, synthesis, and publication take place in a timely manner. The committee acknowledges the difficulty of this task given the sheer size of the datasets that NAWQA scientists publish, the intense yet valuable USGS peer-review process, and resource constraints. Suggestions include the use of postdoctoral scientists, internship students, interagency collaborators, or the addition of staff dedicated to this endeavor. Perhaps increasing the availability of NAWQA data through the Internet would suffice, while the more time-intensive efforts (i.e., interpretation, synthesis, and publication) continue. Timely interpretation, synthesis, and release of NAWQA results is critical. NAWQA data used in these results should continue to be delivered to the public via an improved public database.
The committee believes it is critical to identify and document the cases where NAWQA data and analysis have influenced policy and decision making. Ultimately, tracking impact will allow NAWQA to demonstrate significance and the return on the nation’s investment. Making a slice of this information available to the public could attract new users. A unified strategy for the timely preparation, release, and subsequent tracking of the impact of NAWQA information and products is needed. The committee realizes an effort such as this will require resources during a time when resources are stretched thin and encourages the use of the USGS Office of Public Affairs, when appropriate. The benefit of this exercise will far outweigh the associated challenges.