Consensus Report

Preliminary Principles and Guidelines for Archiving Environmental and Geospatial Data at NOAA: Interim Report (2006)

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 and manages a wide range of environmental and geospatial data to fulfill its mission requirements -- data that stretch from the surface of the sun to the core of the earth, and affect every aspect of society. With limited resources and enormous growth in data volumes, NOAA asked the National Academies for advice on how to archive and provide access to these data. This interim report offers preliminary principles and guidelines that NOAA and its partners can use to begin planning specific archiving strategies for the data streams they currently collect. For example, the report concludes that the decision to archive environmental or geospatial data should be driven by its current or future value to society, and that funding for environmental and geospatial measurements should include sufficient resources to archive and provide access to the data these efforts generate. The preliminary principles and guidelines proposed in this interim report will be refined and expanded to cover data access issues in a final report expected to be released in 2007.

Key Messages

  • All data that are welldocumented, are of known quality, and represent systematic collections or characterizations of the state of the environment should be archived in their most primitive useful form.
  • Broad community representation is essential to establish the process whereby data proposed for archiving can be evaluated and prioritized in terms of scientific and societal benefits.
  • Decisions not to archive data permanently should only occur when the original and predicted purpose of the data has been satisfied, or when the cost of storing the data exceeds the cost of regeneration, and should be made in collaboration with the appropriate user communities.
  • Funding for Earth System measurements should include sufficient resources to archive and provide ready and easy access to these data for extended periods of time.
  • Metadata that completely document and describe archived data should be created and preserved to ensure the enhancement of knowledge for scientific and societal benefit.
  • NOAA's archival process should be designed to allow the integrated exploitation of data from multiple sources to answer environmental questions and support the total life-cycle aspects of individual data sets.
  • Scientific data stewardship should be applied to all archived information so it is preserved, continually accessible, and can be supplemented with additional data as discoveries build understanding and knowledge.
  • The decision to archive or continue to archive data or model output should be driven by its current or future value to society.
  • The environmental and geospatial data collected by NOAA and its partners, including model output, are an invaluable resource that should be archived and made accessible in a form that allows researchers and educators to conduct analyses and generate products necessary to accurately describe the Earth System.