gated. Existing mining law, stemming from 1872, requires that claimants to federal lands do a hundred dollars worth of assessment work per year per claim (claims have prescribed maximum dimensions). The proof of assessment work might be extended to include submissions of verified data obtained in the course of that work.
Finally, a revision in policies for oil and gas exploration and exploitation on the outer continental shelf should be considered. The present policy is that most (or all) such data are filed with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, but the data do not become publicly accessible. Public access after prescribed periods might be included in requirements or incentive policies.
Ideally, a common data exchange format could be agreed to, so that any data set could be translated into the exchange format, routed across networks to any computer on the network, and finally transformed from the exchange format into the format of the receiving machine. This arrangement would permit the collectors of data to be the stewards of their data base, so that they could retain responsibility for the quality and security of their data. However, all data-generating individuals and organizations should be encouraged to make their data available to a national archive-information center as a backup to a distributed system and also to provide data to nonspecialist users.
Professional societies and government agencies have made commendable efforts toward standardized data bases and exchange formats, which are essential to a national distributed data system. Additional exchange formats are required, and data definitions and quality standards must be established and accepted for broad use in the community if data exchange is to be effective. In addition, strong liaison should be maintained with the international community in coordinating data-base and exchange formats and in standardizing data definitions.
An initial step in a distributed data system should be an on-line national data directory listing earth science data holdings of all participating organizations, with provision for continual updating of the directory. The USGS has helped to show the way by making vast sets of data available at low price on CD-ROM. Several European agencies are currently addressing the need for a single repository of information that catalogs and collates all items of potential interest to earth scientists. The United States needs to become more involved in this process. A distribution center should inventory the geoscientific data currently available from all nations.
A national archival information directory should provide an on-line catalog of data sets using standard descriptive elements, and the system should be equipped with a mechanism to encourage those generating information to document their data adequately. Arrangements to maintain the system need to be made with specialists who have the requisite education and expertise to satisfy both the subject and the computer requirements of the user. The data directory should be available to any individual. The interface between the data directory and the user should be simple enough to allow the casual user to search the system adequately.
To help fulfill the recommendation for a national data policy or set of guidelines, a national advisory committee on solid-earth science data should be set up to provide policy oversight through the entire data chain. This committee should be made up of representatives from the diverse sectors of the solid-earth community. It should concern itself with recommending national policy, identifying problem areas, suggesting mechanisms for solving the problems, and strengthening communication of solid-earth science data among government, industry, and academia. It could also review and suggest improvements to research funding policies regarding improved data management.
In the area of the educational and training needs in data handling, professional societies, appropriate federal agencies, and colleges and universities need to take a leading role in ensuring that scientific and professional personnel acquire the background needed to use the available technology. Training and experience in data management should be encouraged for students of the solid-earth sciences at an early stage in their education. Most students receive no formal training in data-base management, although most undergraduates now are required to learn one or more computer languages. With a modest adjustment of curriculum, the principles of data management could be incorporated into these programming courses. For earth science students, instruction must concentrate on the creation and manipulation of data bases typical of those they will use later. Federal agencies, professional organizations, and private institutions should work closely with the academic community to strengthen curricula and improve facilities for educating students, educators, researchers, and practitioners in the area of data management.
The above discussion has dealt primarily with digital data, but the discussion and recommendations apply in general to any type of earth science data. For example, a national policy or set of guidelines should be established for the acquisition,