While data exchange among researchers usually has taken an informal route outside of the purview of the data centers, large data sets (especially satellite data) are increasingly coming from data acquisition and analysis centers designated for particular data types. They may or may not be responsible for distribution of data outside the group of primary users.

Secondary usage of data by scientific peers sometimes leads to the creation of a new data set. This new data set may be the result of problem correction during scientific usage. This process of usage by secondary users can be viewed as a type of peer review of data sets. This stage is particularly important considering the value of accurate data to tertiary users.

Even the long-term, tertiary use of observational data sets requires discipline-specific expertise at archive centers for effective utilization.

A significant barrier for implementation of data archives is the lack of support by principal investigators, which is, in part, the result of past difficulties in retrieving data in a requested form and in a timely manner. Finally, many data centers and archives have technology acquisition policies and practices that contribute to the high cost and ineffective nature of current archive systems.


The organizational structure called for by the oceanographic data life-cycle consists of a web of cooperating, but independent, entities. These entities must be guided by a clear set of technology-independent standards for observational data and metadata. Each entity may have its own technology acquisition strategy and data management approach, but all must conform to the standards for information content and level of service. Each entity will fall into one or more of the following classes:

  • Data originators include individuals, research groups, and organizations serving as data sources for themselves and for other primary users. They may maintain proprietary control over the data they acquire for some limited period of time, but should be required to submit the data to a short-term or long-term archive center after a period of no more than two years.

  • Short-term archive centers serve as focal points for the collection, assessment, and distribution of particular types of oceanographic data. It is through these centers that peer review will be performed on the data, thus adding value to the data over time and improving their quality prior to submission to long-term archives.

  • A long-term archive center will maintain the originator's copy of the data set and the latest compilation of associated versions submitted by short-term archive centers. It is expected that this role will continue to be filled by NOAA as the primary archivist of oceanographic data.

  • The National Archives and Records Administration, as the agency responsible for the archiving of federal records, 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 best means for meeting these responsibilities.

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