the short-term center. The long-term center should ensure that redundant copies of the same data sets are purged and that archived data are stored in conditions and on media that reflect the most appropriate technology available. It also should ensure that catalogs of current holdings are up to date and accessible to all interested parties. Because most of the existing oceanographic data can fit onto a collection of CD-ROMs, the long-term archive could best serve the need of the community for data access by distributing copies of selected data sets, together with public domain software for displaying these data, to a wide variety of sites, such as libraries and universities. The long-term archive also must be responsive to individual requests for particular, little-used data sets. It is expected that this role will continue to be filled by NOAA as the primary archivist of oceanographic data.
As the responsible agency for the archiving of federal records, NARA should play a role as advisor, facilitator, and enforcer. As an advisor, NARA should provide guidance and incentives to the oceanographic community as a whole to assure that a complete observation record is adequately maintained for long-term use. Based on oceanographic community input, NARA should lead and facilitate the process of identifying appropriate information standards, establishing appropriate policies and procedures for implementing those standards, and identifying and promulgating a technology infrastructure that will support oceanographic data management at all levels. When appropriate, NARA should enforce conformance to minimum standards for information completeness and consistency. Because of NARA's limited scientific expertise, agreements with affiliated, oceanographic archive centers may be the primary means for meeting these responsibilities.
Critical retention criteria and appraisal guidelines for long-term archiving of observational data sets are largely independent of the type of the data set.
Each data component contributes unique information as long as it is accurate, measures a different physical quantity, is obtained from a different time and place, and cannot be accurately computed from other existing data.
The entire collection of nonredundant oceanographic data will be needed by future generations to understand the planet they inherit.
Data sets that are redundant, have limited usefulness, or have low reliability are candidates for deletion.
Historians and others who must assess today's policy decisions based on the information that was available to the decisionmaker should use sources such as published reports, journal articles, and books, rather than the original data or model output.
A data set without metadata, or with metadata that do not support effective access and assessment of data lineage and quality, is likely to have limited long-term usefulness.
No data set is collected that cannot be stored at the time of collection and for a few years thereafter. Subsequent storage will actually become less expensive and less burdensome as electronic storage technologies continue to improve. This improvement in technology is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
For small-volume data sets, the major issue with regard to retention and effective use is completeness of the sets' metadata, rather than archiving cost, longevity of media, or maintenance of data holdings.
Large-volume data sets initially may stress storage technologies, but probably will be transformed to a relatively small-volume category in the future, as technology increases the capacity and lowers the cost of storage devices.
While data storage costs may seem significant relative to the budget of an archive, the nation spent much more in the data collection effort, and in all probability, the data still contain information that can lead to increased understanding of the world's oceans and broader environment.
Issues relating to the appraisal of the redundancy, usefulness, and reliability of observational data sets will continue to require joint review by scientists, data and information managers, and archivists.