Science and Engineering Data
IN THE INFORMATION AGE
Panel on Communicating National Science Foundation
Science and Engineering Information to Data Users
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation under a grant to the National Academy of Sciences. Support of the work of the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation (award number SES-0453930). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-22209-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-22209-5
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Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2012). Communicating Science and Engineering Data in the Information Age. Panel on Communicating National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Information to Data Users. Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education and Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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PANEL ON COMMUNICATING NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INFORMATION TO DATA USERS
Kevin Novak (Chair), Integrated Web Strategy and Technology, The American Institute of Architects
Micah Altman, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University
Elana Broch, Population Research Library, Princeton University
John M. Carroll, College of Information Sciences and Technology, Pennsylvania State University
Patrick J. Clemins, R&D Budget and Policy Program, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC
Diane Fournier, Communications Division, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Christiaan Laevaert, Eurostat, Statistical Office of the European Union, Luxembourg
Andrew Reamer, George Washington Institute of Public Policy, George Washington University
Emily Ann Meyer, Costudy Director
Thomas Plewes, Costudy Director
Michael J. Siri, Program Associate
COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS 2011-2012
Lawrence D. Brown (Chair), Department of Statistics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
John M. Abowd, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
Alicia Carriquiry, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University
William DuMouchel, Oracle Health Sciences, Waltham, Massachusetts
V. Joseph Hotz, Department of Economics, Duke University
Michael Hout, Survey Research Center, University of California, Berkeley
Karen Kafadar, Department of Statistics, Indiana University
Sallie Keller, IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, Washington, DC
Lisa Lynch, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Sally C. Morton, Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh
Joseph Newhouse, Division of Health Policy Research and Education, Harvard University
Ruth D. Peterson, Department of Sociology (emeritus), Ohio State University
Hal S. Stern, Donald Bren School of Computer and Information Sciences, University of California, Irvine
John H. Thompson, National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago
Roger Tourangeau, Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland, and Survey Research Center, University of Michigan
Alan Zaslavsky, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard University Medical School
Constance F. Citro, Director
COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD
Robert F. Sproull (Chair), Sun Microsystems (retired), Burlington, Massachusetts
Prithviraj Banerjee, Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, California
Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University, New York
Jack L. Goldsmith III, Harvard Law School
Seymour E. Goodman, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
Jon Kleinberg, Department of Computer Science, Cornell University
Robert Kraut, Department of Human-Computer Interaction, Carnegie Mellon University
Susan Landau, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Peter Lee, Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington
David Liddle, U.S. Venture Partners, Menlo Park, California
Prabhakar Raghavan, Yahoo! Research, Sunnyvale, California
David E. Shaw, D.E. Shaw Research, New York
Alfred Z. Spector, Google, Inc., New York
John Stankovic, Computer Science Department, University of Virginia
John Swainson, Silver Lake Partnership, Islandia, New York
Peter Szolovits, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Peter Weinberger, Google Inc., New York
Ernest J. Wilson, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
Katherine Yelick, Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley
Jon Eisenberg, Director
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The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), as a means of fulfilling its mandate to collect and distribute information about the science and engineering enterprise for the National Science Foundation (NSF), conducts a program of data dissemination that includes provision of data in hard copy and, increasingly, electronic-only publication and tabulation formats; hosts a website that provides access to NCSES reports and methods by topic; and maintains two web-based tools for retrieving data from the NCSES database: the Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR) and the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT). These products and tools serve a community of information users with wide-ranging data needs and diversity in statistical savvy, access preferences, and technical abilities.
In 2010, in view of an expanded scope of responsibilities recognized in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, NCSES requested that the Committee on National Statistics and the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council form a panel to review the NCSES program of collection and distribution of information on science and engineering and to recommend future directions for the program.
In accomplishing this review, the Panel on Communicating National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Information to Data Users has conducted two workshops. Their purpose was to gather information from data users and experts on various aspects of data storage, retrieval, dissemination, and archiving. At the request of NCSES, the panel issued an interim report (National Research Council, 2011), which summarized the
first workshop and recommended action by NCSES on four key issues: data content and presentation, meeting changing storage and retrieval standards, understanding data users and their emerging needs, and data accessibility. The interim report pointed out that the recommended actions should be considered as preliminary steps that would assist NCSES in preparing for a transition from current practices and approaches to an improved program of data dissemination. The analysis and recommendations from the interim report are carried into this final report, along with the findings of a second workshop and the results of subsequent analysis by the panel.
The panel is grateful for the active participation of Lynda Carlson, director of NCSES, and her senior staff and for their informative and frank discussion of the status of the dissemination programs in the meetings and workshops conducted by the panel. Special thanks go to John Gawalt, who was program director for the Information and Technology Services Program of NCSES at the beginning of this study and later was named deputy director of NCSES. He went out of his way on many occasions to respond to questions posed by the panel and to provide helpful materials as the review progressed. His replacement, Jeri Mulrow, continued this willing cooperation as she fulfilled the many requests for information to assist in framing the issues and arriving at recommendations.
A large group of experts from government agencies, the academic community, and various other user organizations freely gave their time to prepare presentations for the workshops and enter into a dialogue with the panel as it gathered information for this report. The users were represented by Paula Stephan, Georgia State University; Jeffrey Alexander, SRI International; Kei Koizumi, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President; and Bhavya Lal and Asha Balakrishnan, Science and Technology Policy Institute of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
Several experts gave presentations on various aspects of dissemination technology developments focusing on government-wide or statistical agency approaches. Alan Vander Mallie, program manager, Data.gov, briefed the panel on the Data.gov initiatives; George Thomas, Office of Enterprise Architecture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided perspective on Data.gov and similar government initiatives to take advantage of the Internet. Suzanne Acar, senior information architect, U.S. Department of the Interior, and cochair, Federal Data Architecture Subcommittee, gave a presentation on the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) group, which is making great headway in developing government-wide solutions to Internet issues. Judy Brewer, director of the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C, gave a forceful presentation on the importance of ensuring that data products on the web are accessible to persons with disabilities and other limitations.
The panel benefited from the observations of Ronald Bianchi, director
of the Information Services Division of the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and chair of the Statistical Community of Practice and Engagement (SCOPE) working group, which is seeking to develop a collaborative structure for federal statistical agencies to develop and share best practices—including, for example, several areas of importance for dissemination, such as information quality, metadata, and common definitions. Jeffrey Sisson, program manager, American FactFinder, and Cavan Capps, chief, DataWeb Applications of the U.S. Census Bureau, gave presentations on these powerful dissemination tools.
The important area of archiving data was discussed by Margaret Adams, manager of the Archival Records Program, and Theodore Hull, senior archivist of the National Archives and Records Administration. Jeffrey Turner, director of sales and marketing of the U.S. Government Printing Office, and Donald Hagan, associate director, Office of Program Development of the National Technical Information Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, discussed powerful new initiatives and tools that permit agencies to move away from dissemination of information in hard-copy formats.
The private sector is playing a growing role in the dissemination of public data sets, such as those produced by NCSES. The Google Public Data Explorer initiative was explained by Benjamin Yolken, product manager, and Jürgen Schwärzler, statistician on the Public Data Team of Google. Steve McDougall, product manager, and Stephan Jou, technical architect for IBM, described the lessons that have been learned concerning the Many Eyes website, wherein users can experiment with, download, and create visualizations of data sets.
The panel is grateful for the excellent work of the staff of the Committee on National Statistics and the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board for their support in developing and organizing the workshop and this report. Tom Plewes and Emily Ann Meyer, costudy directors for the panel, ably supported our work. Michael Siri provided administrative support to the panel. We are especially thankful for the personal participation of Constance F. Citro, director of the Committee on National Statistics, and Jon Eisenberg, director of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, in the conduct of the workshops and in the preparation of this report. Their sage advice benefited the report in numerous ways.
The interim report and this final report have been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that assist the institution in making its reports as sound as possible, and to ensure that the reports meet institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and respon-
siveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
The panel thanks the following individuals for their review of the interim report: John Bertot, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland; Margaret Hedstrom, School of Information, University of Michigan; Shirley M. Malcom, Education and Human Resources, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Gary Marchionini, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina; Kathryn Pettit, National Data Repository, The Urban Institute; and Daryl Pregibon, Google, Inc.
A similar note of appreciation is extended to the following individuals for their review of this final report: Andrew A. Beveridge, Department of Sociology, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY; Martin Grueber, research leader, Battelle, Cleveland, OH; James Hendler, Tetherless World Constellation Chair and director, IT and Web Science Program, Computer and Cognitive Science Departments, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY; Joan K. Lippincott, associate executive director, Coalition for Networked Information, Washington, DC; Kathryn Pettit, senior research associate, National Data Repository, The Urban Institute, Washington, DC; Juana Sanchez, Department of Statistics, University of California, Los Angeles; and Julie Steele, editor, O’Reilly Media, New York, NY.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of the interim report was overseen by Robert F. Sproull, Sun Labs, Oracle, Burlington, MA; he also oversaw the review of the final report. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that the independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Research Council.
Kevin Novak, Chair
Panel on Communicating National Science Foundation
Science and Engineering Information to Data Users