Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects, manages, and disseminates a wide range of climate, weather, ecosystem and other environmental data that are used by scientists, engineers, resource managers, policy makers, and others in the United States and around the world. The increasing volume and diversity of NOAA's data holdings - which include everything from satellite images of clouds to the stomach contents of fish - and a large number of users present NOAA with substantial data management challenges. NOAA asked the National Research Council to help identify the observations, model output, and other environmental information that must be preserved in perpetuity and made readily accessible, as opposed to data with more limited storage lifetime and accessibility requirements. This report offers nine general principles for effective environmental data management, along with a number of more specific guidelines and examples that explain and illustrate how these principles could be applied at NOAA.

Key Messages

  • A formal, ongoing process, with broad community input, is needed to decide what data to archive and what data not to archive.
  • An effective data archive should provide for discovery, access, and integration.
  • Data and metadata require expert stewardship.
  • Data-generating activities should include adequate resources to support end-to-end data management.
  • Effective data management requires a formal, ongoing planning process.
  • Effective interagency and international partnerships are essential.
  • Environmental data management activities should recognize user needs.
  • Environmental data should be archived and made accessible.
  • Metadata are essential for data management.
  • NOAA is clearly dedicated to providing excellent service for its many user communities, and the agency is to be commended for soliciting external advice to make sure it continues to provide effective stewardship of important national assets.