quickly narrow the search to a pertinent set of data. Each individual storage location should maintain a detailed catalog of all stored data, with the proper links to the main directory. It should support and provide needed access to the stored data, and maintain and update the data as required. These functions also require considerations of security and database backup. If possible, a software browse function should be provided to allow the user greater ability to scan the data to determine how useful the data set will be.

In the case of NARA, the panel believes that a combination of both types of archival arrangements would be best. Distributed locations could be a discipline center of excellence, a university, a national laboratory, an agency expert center, or even certain industrial organizations. Each archival location or center should have information science specialists available, with knowledge in the particular disciplines, to provide support for all levels of users related to access, general retrieval, the interface system, the possibilities for analysis, and perhaps some historical background. The optimal candidates for such positions would be knowledgeable scientists with an extensive interest in data management and dissemination.

Given the existing levels of support, it is certain that NARA would not be given sufficient resources to carry out a comprehensive plan alone. Nor would it be desirable for NARA to do so, even if the resources were made available to it. Rather, NARA must develop stronger ties to the scientific community and the pertinent government agencies with due consideration of the specific mandates of the agencies. In light of the existing and projected capabilities of NARA to archive electronic data, geoscience data should be archived at federal science agency data centers or at universities—the primary collectors and users of the data. At the same time, NARA should become more proactive in establishing and maintaining liaisons with the agencies, participating in a program of standards for archival storage, directories, and documentation, and maintaining up-to-date knowledge of all extant databases.

NOAA and the other federal agencies should view NARA as a supporting agency, informing NARA on a timely basis of projects that could impact NARA in the future. A process should be established for NARA to keep informed about user needs. Further, it may be necessary to consider new financial resources for NARA and federal agencies to be able to properly serve the secondary and tertiary users of the scientific data.

The scientific community, and indeed the entire nation, would benefit if a government interagency coordination and policy group were established to provide direction and support for data and information infrastructure for (at a minimum) the physical sciences. Such a group would build on the initial accomplishments of the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Interagency Working Group on Data Management for Global Change. It would have broad representation from the agencies, NARA, the scientific community, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. A major national resource deserves no less.

5 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Geoscience databases that meet retention criteria should be archived in perpetuity, but reviewed periodically. Data should be retained if they meet the following criteria:

    1. The data must be unique; the data cannot be recreated (e.g., via a mathematical model), or the same data cannot be collected again.

    2. Sufficient documentation must exist so that the data are understandable and useful.

    3. The storage media must be in such condition that the data can be used or copied to newer media.

    4. Hardware and software must exist or be obtainable at reasonable cost so that the data can be read and utilized.

All data should be archived in the form in which they were maintained by the original science community.

  1. Geoscience data should be kept, to the maximum extent feasible, within the originating organizations that serve the broad user community and that have the requisite scientific expertise with regard to the data.

  2. NARA should monitor and provide oversight for archived databases held by other data centers or agencies. Such activities on NARA' s part would ensure that, wherever located, archived databases are broadly accessible and are not discarded without NARA's approval.

  3. NARA should be proactive in working with agencies and other organizations to ensure the longevity and long-term accessibility of geoscience data. Non-federal government organizations should not be allowed to discard data, funded wholly or in part by the federal government, without first offering them to the funding agency(s).

    NARA must continue to maintain cognizance of all statutory archival requirements of the federal government. NARA may wish to establish written agreements for working with the agencies and non-federal government organizations.



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