side the organization. An effective USGS SDI would need to enable and facilitate broad data discovery, sharing, and archiving across the research community.

Data discovery is the first important task of the USGS, and it will need to ensure the discoverability of prime datasets in each division. Data discovery simply means that basic information about the existence of a spatial dataset and how it can be obtained is widely available. Once prime datasets (the datasets most critical to the pursuit of each science mission) have been identified and indexed, they must be searchable and accessible in a corporate data-management system. That will require the development of new institutional policies and series of standards on metadata and data discovery. It will also require compliance with these policies and standards.

Data sharing is the second critical task for a functional USGS SDI. Data must be structurally and semantically interoperable so that they can be shared and integrated with other datasets in the USGS, around the nation, and with international partners. As a multidisciplinary organization, the USGS will need to be able to combine and synthesize data from various disciplines to contribute to its cross-domain missions.

USGS has the responsibility for maintaining data for the long term. Thus, an effective institutional strategy for data-archiving is needed as the third fundamental component of a USGS SDI to support temporal analysis. The USGS has a long history of creating of authoritative spatial datasets and, therefore, data creation is not included in the ‘discover and share for the long term’ mantra that was developed to help the USGS focus on the remaining steps beyond data creation.


Standards and interoperability are essential elements of an SDI, whether implemented in a region (such as the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) or in an organization (such as the British Geological Survey). Standards apply not just to data but to the array of processes that operate in an SDI. Standards require consistency of operation, which will be somewhat challenging for a scientific organization that needs to function within defined parameters but at the same time to innovate for future needs. Not all standards meet every user community’s needs and, in some cases, non-standard derivative products may be necessary. However, the committee believes that existing standards that have been developed with the input from across the user community are the best way of providing the widest possible access to outside users. The USGS also needs systems that are interoperable and that follow internationally agreed-upon consensus standards, such as the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and Geoscience Markup Language (GeoSciML), if they are to advance national and international multidisciplinary science. That will require the USGS to design and build an information-management system within the SDI so that information can be effectively managed, analyzed, and delivered to the appropriate stakeholders

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement