and led to difficulties in system maintenance and enhancement process. System upgrades proved to be especially costly and cumbersome, not because of the cost of the new hardware and software, or inconsistent cooperation between the researchers, but because local optimizations had led to structural flaws, such as absent or incomplete metadata, or lost and/or incomplete files. These and other similar deficiencies were difficult to detect, and when detected were difficult to correct.
Centralized information management support by a group of competent individuals grasping both science and data management issues has been the start of a new and successful phase in the evolution of FSDB. The activities of this phase have brought discipline to the collection and organization of the data and metadata and have improved users' access through relational catalogs, which can be searched and cross-referenced. The cost of these activities, however, is not trivial, running at about 20 percent of the total research budget.
Even though FSDB has made positive steps, it should not be considered a modern state-of-the-practice scientific data system. The system lacks a modern users' interface, has limited access capability, is made up of a large number of small data sets, and will probably continue to be costly to maintain and upgrade. Because of the small number of principal investigators (the primary users), these shortcomings have not posed a serious operational problem so far. The situation, however, could become an issue when more widespread access by other LTER sites is required. On the positive side, and as far as collection and organization of metadata are concerned, FSDB should be considered an excellent model. Considerable effort has been and continues to be devoted to the standard format and automated data entry procedures for metadata. These steps have led to less time-consuming efforts by the researchers and a better organized set of very useful metadata.
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