Therefore, it is important for NARA and especially the funding federal agencies to work cooperatively with all of these nongovernmental organizations to ensure that important seismic data sets are kept indefinitely in a form accessible to the scientific user community and the general public.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center

The World Data Center-A: Glaciology [Snow and Ice]/National Snow and Ice Data Center (WDC/NSIDC) provides a national and international focus for snow and ice data information services. Snow and ice data are made available through specialized data reports and inventories in Glaciological Data, special data sets maintained in the center, tailored bibliographies from either the WDC internal database or other on-line search facilities, and access to the Snow and Ice Library. The center also provides a data and information clearinghouse service using information from WDC resources and exchanges or referrals to other domestic and foreign agencies or individuals.

Characteristics of the Data Center

The data services provided by the NSIDC include creation of data products, referrals, and inventory assessment. The center also stores and retrieves data, assesses and improves data quality, and develops improved data handling and management techniques.

Data from the NSIDC are used for a variety of applications, including input and validation in climate models and meteorological studies; resource or hazard assessments (e.g., snowfall, sea ice, icebergs, avalanches); paleoclimatic research (e.g., glacier fluctuations, ice core records); monitoring of environmental changes through snow and ice parameters; and numerous other scientific research purposes.

One of the variables by which NSIDC tracks users is by type of organization. About 35 percent of the center's clientele are from academic institutions; 19 percent are private researchers; 20 percent are from the federal government; 4 percent are from state and local governments; and the remaining 22 percent are researchers from foreign nations. About 43 percent of user requests are for Defense Meteorological Satellite Program data; 19 percent are for data on snow cover, glaciers, avalanches, polar ice masses, ice cores and fresh water ice; 17 percent are for data on sea ice; 12 percent are for publications; and the remaining 10 percent of user requests are for miscellaneous data services.

The data holdings of the NSIDC include data sets for which NOAA has responsibility for long-term preservation, data sets that are held as part of NASA's Earth Observing System program, and others from various government-sponsored scientific programs. Overall, most of the data sets are modest in size. However, satellite data dominate the volume, and the center anticipates that it will greatly expand its holdings by the year 2000.

The data are distributed to users in a variety of forms—CD-ROMs, hard copy, magnetic tapes, and on-line. Each data set is described in a data announcement, which is distributed to potential users. All data are transcribed onto new media (e.g., from nine-track tapes to optical media) as time and resources permit. The National Geophysical Data Center's preservation guidelines are used for the NOAA data segment, and these are based on NARA guidelines.


The National Snow and Ice Data Center archives and distributes data that are part of NOAA's long-term database, NASA's Earth Observing System data, and other data sets and products generated by government sponsored projects, both within federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Some of the data sets are dynamic and growing, while others are the result of completed projects. The NSIDC relies on discipline-specific scientific expertise for its effective functioning. It represents the type of government supported, active archive data center that can fulfill the long-term data access requirements of a specialized subdivision of the geosciences.


Suggested Retention Criteria for Archiving Geoscience Data Sets

The four examples described in the previous chapter are representative of the types of data that should be archived. The panel proposes that data should be retained if they meet the following criteria.

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