THE EOS Information Federation
The management philosophy of a federation is to make decisions at the lowest level in the organization consistent with accomplishing the task at hand.9 This process is enabled by distributed access to information and by incentives that award achievement rather than response to central control.
An Earth Observing System (EOS) Information Federation would be an association of autonomous partners collaborating to operate an information system for the benefit of the Earth sciences and other communities. It entails a centralized structure created by the partners for leadership and administration and a decentralized management model for data processing and access to EOS data.
The EOS Information Federation should facilitate the availability and use of information produced by, or required for, the creative activities of Mission to Planet Earth and the EOS. Thus, it should empower the global change research community to incorporate scientific, conceptual, and technical innovation and advances into the preparation and distribution of EOS products and information describing them. It should support access to, and management of, EOS information resources with in-depth expertise and capabilities, and its business practices should be based on the principle of full and open exchange of data. 10 Moreover, it should provide a flexible and effective nucleus for meeting the Earth information needs of a broad interdisciplinary community in both public and private
sectors. Thus, the federation should act as a trustee of large amounts of data and information obtained at considerable expense by the U.S. and other governments for the benefit of humankind.
Basic Principles for Membership and Governance
The EOS Information Federation should be dedicated to serving the needs of a user community that includes elements of four overlapping constituencies:
Producers of primary observational products in geophysical units, including EOS instrument teams.
Producers, synthesizers, and consumers—including global change researchers and earth scientists using primary geophysical datasets—of higher-level scientific data products and analyses, and assimilated datasets.
Other consumers of scientific data, including educators, students, policy analysts, and integrated assessment teams who seek reliable interpreted information.
Producers of for-profit information, including value-added data products, for-profit data search services, and analysis, engineering, and consulting firms that use EOS data for client services.
Participation in the affairs of the federation should be open to members of these constituencies who can make significant contributions, including entities from federal or other agencies and international partners. Thus, NASA, as the principal sponsor of EOS activities, should support and foster federation policies that are open and inclusive.
The federation will need a structure that allows it to accept government and other funding, manage its activities, and be accountable to its members and the community at large. A possible mechanism would involve a board of trustees appointed by the legally responsible parents of federation members, an executive body responsible for leadership and management, and a set of councils to coordinate technical activities and resolve technical issues.
For the federation to be successful, its interests and those of its members must be similarly aligned. Members must be accountable to their sponsors and the federation. Incentives must be developed to stimulate and facilitate members to negotiate solutions to conflicts and problems. The complementary and competing interests of members must be balanced and resolved. Finally, the federation must find ways to foster and evaluate its contributions to scientific progress while recognizing that some scientists will view its efforts as competing with, rather than supporting, their own agendas.