2

Conclusions of the Forum

Participants at the forum agreed with the concept of a Global Change Data and Information System presented by the Implementation Plan but felt that the Plan needed to be more specific about how key elements of the system would operate. Despite the wide array of disciplines and philosophies represented at the forum and in the working groups, a number of common concerns emerged. These concerns may be divided into three categories:

  • concerns related to the USGCRP

  • concerns related to the design and development of the GCDIS

  • concerns related to the structure and presentation of the Implementation Plan.

More specific concerns, defined by the forum working groups, are detailed in the chapter which follows.

Concerns Related to the USGCRP

The priorities of a data and information system must be established in tandem with the research priorities of the USGCRP. The most urgent dataset needs should be identified so that if tradeoffs need to be made, the crucial datasets will be made available.



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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System 2 Conclusions of the Forum Participants at the forum agreed with the concept of a Global Change Data and Information System presented by the Implementation Plan but felt that the Plan needed to be more specific about how key elements of the system would operate. Despite the wide array of disciplines and philosophies represented at the forum and in the working groups, a number of common concerns emerged. These concerns may be divided into three categories: concerns related to the USGCRP concerns related to the design and development of the GCDIS concerns related to the structure and presentation of the Implementation Plan. More specific concerns, defined by the forum working groups, are detailed in the chapter which follows. Concerns Related to the USGCRP The priorities of a data and information system must be established in tandem with the research priorities of the USGCRP. The most urgent dataset needs should be identified so that if tradeoffs need to be made, the crucial datasets will be made available.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System The development of the USGCRP and the data and information system to serve it will be an evolving process. During this process, there needs to be good communication between system developers and the scientific user community. Users at the forum expressed their desire to be kept informed about developments in the USGCRP and in the GCDIS. Internet bulletin boards are an effective means of communication in many scientific disciplines and would provide a good start in creating a meaningful dialogue among the global change community. Recommendation 1: The IWGDMGC should establish a bulletin board on the Internet to facilitate two-way communication concerning all aspects of the USGCRP between federal program managers and the scientific user community. Concerns Related to the GCDIS The IWGDMGC should strive to improve the constituent components of the GCDIS such that the critical demands of global change are met. In particular, the requirements to make data available, with characteristics sufficient for the detection of the signals of global change must be made explicit. This may require retrospective reprocessing of datasets to ensure that they are internally consistent through time, and may impose additional requirements on the way that some datasets are collected, processed, and archived in the future. A corollary of this point is that the GCDIS cannot simply be defined by the coordination and linking of existing data and information systems, but may well require that some of these existing systems institute significant internal changes in their procedures and processes. The GCDIS is more likely to function coherently if there is a lead agency that assures the fair allocation of resources among the participating agencies. Moreover, a lead agency must ensure that all data types are managed properly; this may be difficult for agencies whose programs are relatively narrow in focus. Recommendation 2: A lead agency should be designated to facilitate development of the GCDIS.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System The data and information system for the Global Change Research Program will serve a wide range of users with varying levels of sophistication. It must have the following attributes: several ways to access the system multiple, transparent pathways to locate the data within the system a variety of media to disseminate the data and information. Recommendation 3: The GCDIS should be a flexible, evolving system that will promote access for new users and enhance services for the established user community. Global change research requires the synthesis of large numbers of disparate datasets. This presents challenges to the scientists, who must maintain a functional level of familiarity with other disciplines in order to integrate their results, and the program managers, who ultimately control what data will be included in the GCDIS. Much of these data exist in universities, or in regional or agency programs that are not categorized as “global change”. International data, in particular, is key to the success of the GCDIS. Yet, as currently envisioned, the GCDIS will only include the data and information from the focussed global change programs of the agencies. Recommendation 4: The GCDIS should include all data, or pointers to those data and key discipline reports, that are crucial to global change research. The GCDIS infrastructure relies heavily on existing data centers, nearly all of which collect, disseminate, and archive physical science data and data products. Yet, new priorities within the USGCRP emphasize the biological and human dimensions of global change. Integration of biological and social science data with physical science data is critical for assessing the effects of global environmental change. In the near future, social science data will be accessible through the Consortium for International

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), but no agency or organization plans to comprehensively store or catalog biological science data. Recommendation 5: The IWGDMGC should initiate prototyping efforts in order to test ways of combining disparate datasets. Particular effort should be made to link natural and social science data. Recommendation 6: The IWGDMGC should ensure that ecosystems data and information receive the same level of treatment as other types of global change data. Concerns Related to the Implementation Plan In general, the Plan was not specific enough about how the GCDIS will be implemented. The steering committee recommends that the Plan clarify, or place more emphasis on the following: how to use the GCDIS, including how to access the system, locate datasets, retrieve archived data, and place orders goals and milestones of the GCDIS, and a schedule for implementation the specific roles of the agencies the role of users. Do they passively receive the data, or can they input data, algorithms and products? Do they have a formal advisory role? financial needs of the GCDIS. What are the costs associated with collecting, documenting, processing, and archiving the data, particularly if the data reside outside of the involved agencies? How committed are the agencies to maintaining the GCDIS in times of budget uncertainties? Finally, many forum participants felt that some issues, though mentioned in the Plan, merited further elaboration. Those include the availability of international data to and within the GCDIS, participation by international researchers, and efforts to facilitate assessment activities.