1
Introduction

Overview

NASA is experimenting with new arrangements for managing data and information from its Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) program, formerly known as Mission to Planet Earth. A federation is an association of autonomous partners that agree to abide by certain interface standards, business practices, and expectations of conduct to achieve a common goal. Federation provides a mechanism for representing the interests of a broader community. Although federations have been used as an organizational model for centuries, the concept has rarely been applied to scientific data management. Consequently, William Townsend, then Acting Associate Administrator of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, requested that the NRC conduct a workshop to educate users and producers of ESE data about federations. In this report, the Steering Committee on a Workshop for an Earth Science Enterprise Federation examines the federation concept, compares different governance models, and offers some lessons for managing scientific data in an ESE federation.

Background

The roots of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise began in the 1980s. For the first time, earth scientists from government, industry, and academia used advances in computer technology to develop numerical models to understand the Earth as an integrated system of land, oceans, air, ice, and ecosystem processes. Simultaneously, advances in spacecraft and sensor technology led to a new generation of satellites that could provide vast quantities of remotely sensed data.

From these revolutionary developments in science and technology, the Earth Observing System (EOS) was born with the goal of providing new information on earth system processes and so foster an interdisciplinary research environment. In order for this research environment to thrive, NASA realized that it also needed a system for data acquisition, initial processing, back-up archiving, and distribution. The EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS) was established to create this environment. (A brief history of EOSDIS is contained in NRC [1995b], NRC [in press]). NASA, with input from its earth science research community, defined a set of standard products, which will be stored and distributed by the Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs). At the time it was conceived, NASA used a traditional top-down, centralized management model for EOSDIS.

In the years since the inception of this model, several factors prompted NASA to consider changes in its approach:



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



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 3
--> 1 Introduction Overview NASA is experimenting with new arrangements for managing data and information from its Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) program, formerly known as Mission to Planet Earth. A federation is an association of autonomous partners that agree to abide by certain interface standards, business practices, and expectations of conduct to achieve a common goal. Federation provides a mechanism for representing the interests of a broader community. Although federations have been used as an organizational model for centuries, the concept has rarely been applied to scientific data management. Consequently, William Townsend, then Acting Associate Administrator of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, requested that the NRC conduct a workshop to educate users and producers of ESE data about federations. In this report, the Steering Committee on a Workshop for an Earth Science Enterprise Federation examines the federation concept, compares different governance models, and offers some lessons for managing scientific data in an ESE federation. Background The roots of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise began in the 1980s. For the first time, earth scientists from government, industry, and academia used advances in computer technology to develop numerical models to understand the Earth as an integrated system of land, oceans, air, ice, and ecosystem processes. Simultaneously, advances in spacecraft and sensor technology led to a new generation of satellites that could provide vast quantities of remotely sensed data. From these revolutionary developments in science and technology, the Earth Observing System (EOS) was born with the goal of providing new information on earth system processes and so foster an interdisciplinary research environment. In order for this research environment to thrive, NASA realized that it also needed a system for data acquisition, initial processing, back-up archiving, and distribution. The EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS) was established to create this environment. (A brief history of EOSDIS is contained in NRC [1995b], NRC [in press]). NASA, with input from its earth science research community, defined a set of standard products, which will be stored and distributed by the Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs). At the time it was conceived, NASA used a traditional top-down, centralized management model for EOSDIS. In the years since the inception of this model, several factors prompted NASA to consider changes in its approach:

OCR for page 3
--> The growth and widespread diffusion of the Internet and World Wide Web brought vast amounts of information to a wide range of users. These new information technologies enhanced access to data services and transformed the ways scientists, businesses, agencies, and other organizations communicate. Advances in the capabilities of workstation computers enabled scientists to be both producers and users of data from their desktops. Demand for EOSDIS data products and information extended beyond the earth science community to embrace a broad range of users--policy makers, educators, business people, and the general public. The major constituents currently interested in this data and information are described in Box 1. The U.S. government encouraged commercial applications of earth science data. Box 1. Principal ESE Constituencies Data Producers. This constituency consists of NASA-funded instrument teams for EOS and the broader Earth Science Enterprise. Members produce standard products that describe accurate geo-located measurements of geophysical variables and are used to address scientific questions by global change researchers and by instrument team members themselves. The focus of producers is on timely and routine data production. They require a stable computing environment, interoperable formats, and quality control standards. Activities of this group are predicated on U.S. policy that directs that data for global change research are to be made available to users at no more than the cost of filling a user request. Global Change Scientists. This constituency consists of NASA and non-NASA scientists who use and synthesize scientific information. Some undertake exploratory studies, develop algorithms for new information products, or produce higher-order products based on the outputs of the instrument teams. Others prepare expert assessments for a wide range of sponsors in industry and government. Because this constituency consists primarily of data users, it concerns itself first with the availability of holdings, and then with the scientific quality and documentation of the contents. As occasional information providers, members of this constituency also concern themselves with the demands the data and information system places on them with regard to formats and metadata. Given traditional research budgets, prices exceeding the cost of filling a user request are likely to be a severe deterrent to use. Knowledge Brokers. This constituency consists of science teachers, college earth science students, policy analysts, interested public, and research scientists outside their discipline. Knowledge brokers use reliable, interpreted data products; typically, they browse until they find what interests them. They benefit from expository guides that explain key concepts and technical terms and that provide pointers to topics of interest to them. These guides accomplish online the functions of a reference librarian, but they require editorial skills rarely found in most scientific data centers. Low-cost information is critical for this constituency. For-Profit Businesses. Like the data producers, the for-profit business constituency is operations driven. They provide value-added data products for firms that use EOS data for client services. Commercial users are concerned that government will compete with them by distributing information products free of charge or at a subsidized price. They also are concerned about whether government will continue to make stable data streams—on which their large investments depend—available to them. For-profit businesses may become data producers, selling observational data and derived products to research scientists. In the future, these producers are likely to be distinguished not only by their pricing policies but also by proprietary restrictions they may place on their products. Producers of for-profit information who want intellectual property rights may prohibit further distribution of their information or disallow the use of their information in new information products. These business practices contrast strongly with the majority of federally funded data producers who assume data sharing is the norm and who furnish it at the cost of filling a user request.

OCR for page 3
--> The National Research Council (NRC) also recommended that NASA consider changes in direction. In 1994 an NRC report pointed out that the centralized architecture of EOSDIS would not allow users to combine data from different sensors, modify standard products to meet new scientific needs, or revise algorithms to process data for different purposes (NRC, 1994). The report concluded that the EOSDIS architecture was too rigid to support the scientific community for which it was built and recommended that the products be designed and controlled in part by the customers of the system. A 1995 NRC report went further, recommending that "responsibility for product generation, publication, and user services should be transferred to a federation of partners selected through a competitive process open to all" (NRC, 1995a). A follow-on report also recommended that NASA consider implementing the federation concept in stages (NRC, 1996). The report urged NASA to implement an "initial limited set of pilot or prototype federated projects, ... in the near term, while continuing to develop the framework of a fully federated system for the long term." In response to changing conditions and NRC recommendations, NASA has decided to test the federation concept (see Box 2) as a means for restructuring EOSDIS. The federation experiment will involve more than EOSDIS functions; it will embrace all of the ESE program. Although NASA recognizes the potential benefits of a federated ESE, it is also mindful of the potential dangers associated with transferring major scientific functions of EOSDIS outside of the federal government. In order to make sure that EOSDIS continues to fulfill its broad public purpose, NASA intends to transfer functions in phases and to evaluate success along the way. If the experiment proves successful, EOSDIS functions will be awarded through a competitive bidding process. Meanwhile, NASA will continue to develop and launch satellites, ensure that standard data products are produced and distributed, and foster development of the federation. The first phase of the experimental federation is a Working Prototype Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIPs). NASA recognizes three types of ESIPs, which overlap with the four ESE constituencies described in Box 1. Type 1 ESIPs. These ESIPs are responsible for standard data and information products whose production, publishing/distribution, and associated user services require emphasis on reliability and adherence to schedules. Type 1 ESIPs include DAACs and data producers. Type 2 ESIPs. These ESIPs are responsible for producing innovative science information products and services, which primarily serve the global change and earth science communities. Type 2 ESIPs include data producers and global change scientists. Type 3 ESIPs. These ESIPs are responsible for providing innovative, practical applications of earth science data to a broad range of users beyond the global change research community. Type 3 ESIPs include knowledge brokers and for-profit businesses. Members of the prototype federation consist of the Type 2 and Type 3 ESIP winners of two 1997 NASA Cooperative Agreement Notices (see Appendix D). According to these notices, the objective of the prototype federation is to experiment with and evolve processes to make earth science data easy to preserve, locate, access, and use for all beneficial applications, including those for research, education, and commerce. It was against this background that the workshop on an ESE federation was held. Organization of Report As the earth science community begins the transition from the original EOSDIS model to a federation model, it is important to consider options for governance and other federation issues. This report is based on a workshop held in February 1998, background materials prepared by the Committee on Geophysical and Environmental Data (CGED), and a seminal paper on federations by Charles Handy (1992). The workshop was organized by the Steering Committee on an Earth Science Enterprise Federation, which operated under the auspices of the CGED. Representatives of existing federations (libraries, international organizations, industry, government, and academia) described the characteristics of their organizations in plenary sessions, and working

OCR for page 3
--> groups discussed broad federation concepts. More than eighty participants, including federation experts, representatives of existing federations, ESIP winners, DAAC managers, and the broader scientific community, attended the two-and-one-half-day workshop. The agenda for the workshop and the list of workshop participants are in Appendixes B and C, respectively. Chapter 2, Working Group Summaries, raises the following questions: What are the objectives of an ESE federation? What are the major governance issues to be considered in the development of an effective ESE federation? What are the potential benefits and costs of joining an ESE federation? What are the criteria for judging the success of an ESE federation as a management model? Chapter 3, Models for an ESE Federation, compares six federation models and provides lessons for managing ESE data and information. The models are described in Appendix A. Box 2: Federation Principles (Handy, 1992) The federation concept is a political philosophy applied to management to deal with the following paradoxes: "the need to make things big by keeping them small; to encourage autonomy but within bounds; to combine variety and shared purpose, individuality and partnership, local and global ...." Principle 1. "Subsidiarity places power at the corporation's lowest point." Subsidiarity, which is the reverse of empowerment, has to be formalized to be effective. The center of the organization should be small and can be small because of advances in information technology. Principle 2. "Interdependence spreads power around, avoiding the risks of a central bureaucracy." Federalism encourages collaboration and cooperation, not centralization. Principle 3. "A proper federation needs a common law, language, and currency—a uniform way of doing business." Principle 4. "Separation of powers keeps management, monitoring, and governance in segregated units." Separate functions are performed by separate entities (e.g., management is an executive function, monitoring is a legal function, and governance is a legislative function). Governance is the most important for the organization's future. Principle 5. "Twin citizenship ensures a strong federal presence in a strong independent region." Interdependence flourishes when members recognize they are also part of a larger whole (e.g., Texans are also Americans).