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Summary of Working Group Presentations

Documenting Global Change Working Group

The first activity stream of the USGCRP is “documenting global change through the establishment of an integrated, comprehensive, and long-term program of observing and analyzing Earth system change on global scales” [CEES, 1992]. The working group of the forum that reviewed the Plan in terms of meeting the needs of documenting global change raised the following comments concerning the Plan:

  • The GCDIS should archive and distribute data and information necessary for documenting global environmental change, including data pertinent to both the natural and human dimensions of the change. The detection and documentation of global change requires distinguishing natural from anthropogenic-induced variability, and distinguishing real variability from error. It is important to observe and document the processes that are responsible for change as well as the changes in state of the systems involved. This requires data continuity and consistency through time. Data activities aimed at documenting global change should not be restricted to physical or natural systems but must also include human dimensions.



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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System 3 Summary of Working Group Presentations Documenting Global Change Working Group The first activity stream of the USGCRP is “documenting global change through the establishment of an integrated, comprehensive, and long-term program of observing and analyzing Earth system change on global scales” [CEES, 1992]. The working group of the forum that reviewed the Plan in terms of meeting the needs of documenting global change raised the following comments concerning the Plan: The GCDIS should archive and distribute data and information necessary for documenting global environmental change, including data pertinent to both the natural and human dimensions of the change. The detection and documentation of global change requires distinguishing natural from anthropogenic-induced variability, and distinguishing real variability from error. It is important to observe and document the processes that are responsible for change as well as the changes in state of the systems involved. This requires data continuity and consistency through time. Data activities aimed at documenting global change should not be restricted to physical or natural systems but must also include human dimensions.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System The GCDIS should enhance, not degrade user services. For many researchers, existing systems for data archive and distribution are familiar and adequate. However, the GCDIS should stimulate new users and uses, including facilitating system use by both individual, social, and natural scientists separately and in interdisciplinary activities. The Plan should clearly specify how this will be achieved. The GCDIS must not impede progress by imposing cumbersome rules, unrealistic standards for data acceptability, unwieldy cost recovery procedures, or by placing unnecessary demands on computer and network resources. Rather, the GCDIS should provide a broader organization and access capability. It is assumed that tools like gopher/wais, mosaic/worldwide web, etc. will evolve to meet most of these broader needs and goals. The Plan should describe how to use the GCDIS. A series of examples of possible system use, separated from the main text, would be instructive to the current and new user communities. The Plan should incorporate success measures, emphasizing interaction with users, so that current system performance and directions for improvement can be assessed. Specific goals and milestones are needed to focus and guide the GCDIS and to measure success. These goals and milestones should match those of the USGCRP and should be developed as a cooperative effort between users and program managers. User satisfaction within the very broad GCDIS user community is not a sufficient measure. The Plan should clarify the management structure of the GCDIS. Roles and responsibilities of the individual agencies within the cooperative framework need to be more clearly established in the Plan. For example, each agency may be assigned specific lead responsibilities with a mandate for coordination. The Plan should indicate how budget and cost issues will be resolved, especially since the agencies have varying ability to pay.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System The Plan should clarify the role of users in the GCDIS. The mechanisms for user input to program planning, maintenance, and assessment should be outlined, so that the system becomes more than a federal data depository with limited access. The IWGDMGC should consider creating a user working group that focuses on providing technical guidance and setting data priorities. The USGCRP should establish a process for identifying critical global change datasets and for ensuring that they are archived and distributed through the GCDIS. The GCDIS cannot archive and maintain on-line all datasets that might be of possible use to researchers. Priorities, developed by the users themselves, must be established. One method of obtaining user input is for the IWGDMGC to moderate a dataset-needs discussion, using an Internet bulletin board, which would allow users to identify their needs. This should allow discussion of availability, priority, expected applications, current users, and relationships to other datasets. Maintenance of a computerized catalog of dataset needs would produce an ongoing rational basis for priority decisions. The GCDIS should adopt a multi-level, multi-path approach. The system should serve users with a range of sophistication, objectives, and needs, since many different information types will be needed as interactions between researchers in various disciplines evolve. One method of creating a system that is responsive to disparate user needs is to develop a hypertext-based system prototype, which would allow a hierarchical access system. A multi-level organization of data with multiple paths for access can provide, for example, social scientists with access to natural systems data in less technical forms than the natural scientists require. Varying levels of user sophistication could also be accommodated by allowing information requests and dissemination in many physical media. The GCDIS should be sensitive to the requirements of the social science user community. The GCDIS must be capable of serving, and facilitating interaction between, a wide spectrum of natural and social science users. The current system gives the impression of serving only

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System those involved in the natural sciences. The GCDIS must avoid standards that are biased toward the natural sciences. Since human dimensions data will be included, the GCDIS must be flexible enough to deal with confidential data and must recognize that some data will be masked to some users. The data in the GCDIS should be well documented and assessed for quality. Metadata is required for all data holdings, and should include information about sampling strategies and confidentiality constraints. Funding mechanisms should be established to ensure the inclusion of the appropriate metadata, the reprocessing of data to forms more useful to global change research, and, where possible, the rehabilitation of low-quality critical datasets. The master dataset directory should include listings of all global change datasets, including those that cannot be accessed directly through the GCDIS. The GCDIS should provide pointers to both international-and regional-scale datasets, with indicators of their availability. The existing national and international library access system could provide this framework. Understanding Key Processes Working Group The second activity stream of the USGCRP is “understanding key processes through a program of focused studies to improve our knowledge of the physical, chemical, biological, geological, and social processes that influence and govern the effects of global change on natural systems” [CEES, 1992]. Process studies seek to find linkages between observations through hypothesis testing. Process studies typically deal with the analysis of large amounts of raw data drawn from different sources and disciplines. They often rely on large field and survey campaigns as sources of data, although time series data, operational and census data, or spatial representations may be equally important. These data typically come from and are used in extensive projects where the participants may not have easy access to, or understanding of, all the data and metadata. The working group of the forum that reviewed the Plan in terms of meeting the needs of under-

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System standing key processes raised the following comments concerning the Plan: A mechanism is needed to identify and set priorities for those datasets and model output products that are fundamental to the goals of the USGCRP. Specifically, the Plan must address the issue of whether all environmental data will be equally and easily accessible, or whether the system will contain only data essential for answering a few key questions. If the latter is envisioned, a mechanism for selecting a few key global change issues and the essential datasets needed to address them should be part of the GCDIS. The GCDIS should include mechanisms for retrieving relevant global change datasets that are not currently accessible through electronic media. Much of the data and/or products needed for global change research reside in universities or in federal programs that are not directly related to global change. The agencies should find mechanisms to fund selected owners of relevant data holdings to make those data publicly available and useful to the global change community. The working group views the incorporation of selected datasets into the GCDIS as a more efficient process than the Plan's vision of including all of the available data. The Plan should clarify the composition and role of the content subgroup . The Plan does not specify who this group is or will be. Does the subgroup include members from the science community, or is it composed of agency managers? It is not clear how much of the content will be determined by the global change user community, and how the content subgroup will obtain their input. The research and policy user communities should have input about the content of the GCDIS. One method of obtaining input from a large, diverse community is to create an electronic bulletin board, usegroup or listserve. This would aid in IWGDMGC-user information exchanges concerning implementation of the GCDIS and could be used to

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System continually inform the global change community about the GCDIS data content and content policies. The Plan should specify a mechanism for identifying and incorporating declassified data into the GCDIS. A system for the review of datasets from the defense and intelligence communities should be a part of the Plan. The Plan should identify which agencies will archive the data, and should specify both how the data will be archived and how they will be retrieved from long-term storage. The GCDIS should facilitate flexible, interactive applications. The system should enable user assembly of custom, process-oriented datasets through flexible spatial and temporal query criteria. The system should also have the capability to identify existing datasets and future data needs that are relevant to the planning and operation of process or impact studies. Specific examples of how this will be realized with current technology are needed in the Plan, or in an appendix to the Plan. The GCDIS should be designed to flag reports and publications resulting from critical process studies and to point users to the original data. This is important for process studies because they involve interdisciplinary activities where summary information from disparate fields is crucial for interpretation. In particular, cross references between natural science and socio-economic data should be included. The Plan should define the role of special libraries as a source for access to global change bibliographic information and as a source for information on landmark publications. The GCDIS should encourage the participation of international groups currently working on large-scale process studies. Global process studies frequently require measurement, analysis, and interpretation activities that cross national boundaries, and that present coordination challenges. The Plan should state how connections with international

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System groups that are working on large process studies, such as the International Satellite Land-Surface Climatology Project, will be made. The Plan should anticipate future technologies to ensure that the GCDIS can evolve to meet future data management needs. Pilot studies and prototyping projects should be initiated in order to test how connections will be made between large numbers of disparate datasets. The Plan should include milestones for achieving the GCDIS goals of the agencies. Predicting Global Change Working Group The third activity stream of the USGCRP is “predicting global and regional environmental change through the development and application of integrated conceptual and predictive Earth system models” [CEES, 1992]. The working group of the forum that reviewed the Plan in terms of meeting the needs of predicting global change raised the following comments concerning the Plan: The Plan should be more specific, and written in terms that are clear to the user community. Excessive use of jargon and an unnecessary reliance on technical language make the Plan difficult to read and will not foster support in the research community. One way to clarify concepts is to include scenarios of how to use the GCDIS for a specific problem. This would force the Plan to be more specific about how the GCDIS will be implemented and would be instructive to users who want to gain access. The GCDIS should include mechanisms to evaluate its effectiveness . One way to test the performance of the GCDIS is to implement a pilot study that incorporates a number of disparate databases necessary for predicting global environmental change. For example, a pilot study could be designed to predict the physical, chemical, biological, social and

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System economic effects of the destruction of tropical forests over the next 50 years. The pilot project would be an iterative exercise, feeding back to the GCDIS improvements in the algorithms and outputs as they are elucidated. The GCDIS must be able to evolve as our models, algorithms, and understanding of key processes improve. The user community should be informed about the status of the GCDIS, how it can be accessed, and what is currently available. Potential mechanisms for marketing the GCDIS include distribution of a brochure, or the creation of an electronic bulletin board through the Internet. The GCDIS should include data that are outside of the USGCRP. Many relevant datasets exist in federal agencies and programs that are not directly related to global change research. These datasets should be identified and included in the Plan now, or it may be difficult to integrate them into the GCDIS in the future. Examples include databases in the U.S. Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. A data center for ecosystem research should be created. The data center need not be a physical data repository, rather it could be a pointing organization. Currently, there is no single place where a researcher can obtain ecological data on a subject relevant to global change or to even be directed to such data. Formation of an ecological data center is timely given the obvious need for ecological data in global change research, and the establishment of the National Biological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. These organizations within the federal government will both produce new data and synthesize existing data, and should be encouraged to take an active role in developing a data center.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System Assessing Implications of Global Change Working Group The fourth activity stream of the USGCRP is “assessing and synthesizing the state of scientific, technical, and economic knowledge and implications of global change to make global and regional environmental policies and to provide guidance for determining research priorities of the USGCRP” [CEES, 1992]. The working group of the forum that reviewed the Plan in terms of meeting the needs of assessing implications of global change raised the following comments concerning the Plan: The Plan should specify how it will facilitate the assessment activities outlined in the USGCRP. The Plan is particularly weak in specifying how to include social scientists and international, national, state, and local policy analysts. Even judges and lawyers might be potential users. The GCDIS must evolve to meet the changing needs of the USGCRP. The USGCRP is, in late 1993, evolving to increase its assessment activity. Its initiatives will now include “comprehensive integrated assessment” across “human interactions and societal institutions”, and it is safe to say that the focus of the USGCRP will continue to change as the future unfolds. The GCDIS must be at least as dynamic as the USGCRP; yet the Plan falls short of addressing the need for institutionalizing change. How should the process be organized to institutionalize the evolution of user communities, for example? It is not enough to simply hold occasional data forums. What ongoing structure might be envisioned? Questions as simple as “How might users ‘fire' a GCDIS data manager if provided services are inadequate?” will come up. These are the fundamental sorts of questions that the Plan must address either directly in the forthcoming document or indirectly by recommending and creating an expanded planning process with input from the research community. The Plan should recognize that there are diverse user groups with different needs. The data and information needs of the three primary and representative groups of users scientists, integrated assessment teams and multidisciplinary scientists, and policy makers do overlap, but not to

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System the degree suggested in the Plan. There are significant differences in: 1) the kinds of data and information products and services that are required, 2) the kinds of organizations that will best provide those products and services, and 3) the type of system access that will be most appropriate. The data needs of these groups are further described in Appendix B. At the same time, it must be recognized that the GCDIS supports all four working groups of the USGCRP. The Plan, by forcing the IWGDMGC to report only to Working Group 1, implies that only the scientists have a role in the GCDIS. Future emphasis on assessment activities will only exaggerate the need for interaction across all the working groups. The Plan should be reorganized to match the main user groups with their needs. It is critical that the Plan show precisely how the separate and specialized needs of different users will be met by the present and future components of the GCDIS. A matrix which maps at least the three user groups identified above against the Table of Contents would highlight the components of the GCDIS that are and are not necessary for each user type. The GCDIS should endorse the creation of Issue Oriented Data Activities (IODAs) in partnership with planned assessment activities. These IODAs will not replace existing archive centers, disciplinary data centers, or interdisciplinary data centers like CIESIN. They will complement the work and employ the services of those centers. Existing data resources will play essential roles in the research layer of the user pyramid, and can be linked as required to any IODA's virtual data center function to avoid duplication of effort. Early engagement of any assessment activity in the creation and/or the continuation of an IODA will coopt the most knowledgeable users into processes that will identify, assess, and develop (as necessary) the required databases, and locate gaps in the necessary data support. It will also offer assessment teams: (1) immediate access to the GCDIS for their results, citation of their sources, and textual descriptions of their conclusions; and (2) preemptory development of data in anticipation of the next round of long term assessment.

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System Any IODA will be engaged in creating data products (but not analyzing data), and so each must be staffed by informed scientists who are expert in the disciplines represented in the assessment. IODAs will also play important roles in supporting synthesis activity higher in the user pyramid and in leading researchers who must cross disciplinary boundaries to conduct their own integrated analyses and assessments to the best sources of quality survey documentation and supporting annotated bibliographies. They must therefore be staffed, as well, by knowledgeable librarians who know the field and can direct inquiries expediently through a growing and evolving array of sources and citations. It should be clear that IODAs will be labor-, and not capital-intensive in their operation. Participating federal agencies must make a financial commitment to support the GCDIS. Implementing the GCDIS will make significant new demands on existing data management capabilities, but the Plan makes no mention of the need for any significant commitment of agency resources. This is unrealistic, and will do more to prevent the success of the GCDIS than any technical problems. To be credible, the Plan must specify the resources which need to be committed, agency by agency. At the very least, the Plan must provide a schedule of agency commitment; and it must recognize that participation in assessment activity should include the commitment to create and/or sustain an associated IODA. Partial support of IODAs might also be obtained from other national or international partners. The priorities of the GCDIS must be established. Because priorities are tied to current and future funding allocations, agencies should plan an iterative process. As a first step, a budget target should be set. This should be related to the research budgets in various categories, but some provision should be made for contributing activities. Second, produce a bottom-up description of highest priority needs in different parts of the program, with specific data activities identified and priced. This has to be done by the scientists involved, in conjunction with appropriate data-center managers. Third, produce an overall ranking and priority setting of these basic needs, with input from science advisory panels. Costs must be related to the target budgets, and the consequences for

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1993 DATA FORUM: A Review of an Implementation Plan for U.S. Global Change Data and Information System USGCRP outputs if the targets are not met should be stated. Fourth, agencies should undertake a serious effort to secure the necessary funding. Finally, steps two through four should be revisited in light of the available resources. The Plan should clearly state which data within the GCDIS will be available to the international research community. Assessment activity is, for the most part, international in scope. The growing trend toward restricting access for reasons of confidentiality, commercialization, and/or national policy is thus extremely troubling. The United States has a stated policy of open access, but a parallel trend toward increasing numbers of bilateral barter arrangements over data offers the world an inconsistent portrait of the U.S. position. Barter may indeed generate short-term gains with enormous long-term cost. The IWGDMGC must discourage this type of bartering and insist that the very highest levels of government work with the research community to confront the issue of access directly and to think creatively about a strategy for achieving, for example, the “full, open and prompt exchange of relevant scientific, technological, technical, socio-economic and legal information related to the climate system and climate change” called for in, among other places, the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Engaging the National Information Infrastructure Task Force might be a good place to start. The Plan must, as well, be more specific about which data are absolutely non-negotiable. This is a step which will require consistent clarity and definition within the U.S. research community (and how it enforces its own rules on its own researchers) and the international research community represented by, e.g., IGBP, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (HDP).