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1. Introduction

The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established to observe, understand, and predict global change, and to make its results available for use in policy matters. To meet this goal, the USGCRP researchers must investigate issues that extend across traditional disciplines. The data and information needed include both discipline-specific and assimilated data sets that are combinations of data and information from disciplines that range from the geophysical and biological sciences to economics and social sciences. These data and information will result from physical observations, sociological surveys, or model results, and will transcend agency and national boundaries. Thus, the data and information management component of the USGCRP is challenged to build upon existing data center structures to create a more comprehensive and versatile resource.

In 1992, the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) published the U.S. Global Change Data and Information Management Program Plan to address these challenges. In that plan, agencies participating in the USGCRP committed program resources (consistent with their roles and missions) to the goal of an interagency global change data and information management program, consistent across agencies, that involves and supports university, international, and other user communities. This present document uses that plan to define the implementation of a Global Change Data and Information System (GCDIS). It defines the interagency mechanisms that will be established to coordinate the efforts of individual agencies involved in implementing the GCDIS, overall timetables, and agency-by-agency overviews with schedules of the implementation efforts. This GCDIS implementation plan will evolve through regular updates to reflect changing USGCRP research priorities, agency plans, technology advancements, program accomplishments, and the changing needs of global change data and information users.

The Global Change Data and Information System

The goal of the U.S. Global Change Data and Information Management Program is to make it as easy as possible for researchers and others to have ready access to and use of global change data and information. To achieve this goal, the USGCRP agencies are organizing the GCDIS, which builds upon the mission resources and responsibilities of each agency and links the data and information services of the agencies to each other and to the users.

The use of the word system in GCDIS embraces the full range of people, infrastructure (e.g., hardware, software, networks, telephones, mail), and procedures for identifying, assembling, documenting, archiving, and disseminating that as a whole can provide users with data and information services.

The GCDIS is the set of individual agency data and information systems supplemented by a minimal amount of crosscutting new infrastructure, and made interoperable by use of standards, common approaches, technology sharing, and data policy coordination. Thus, portions of each agency's own data and information system will be that agency's component of the GCDIS, and the GCDIS will emerge through this coordinated interagency participation. Some agencies may arrange to have other agencies assume responsibility for selected aspects of their GCDIS-related functions. This is how Department of Defense (DOD) data will be made available to the GCDIS.


The scope of the GCDIS implementation effort is described in this plan in terms of the user community it serves, its data and information content, and the access services it provides. Each of these will be discussed in more detail later in this plan.

User Community

The primary users of the GCDIS are the global change researchers in agencies, academia, and the international community who conduct process research, integrative modeling and prediction investigations, and science assessment studies; researchers, policymakers, and educators who assess the state of global change and global change research to provide information for policy decisions; and the public.

The level of services, data, and information each class of user requires will vary significantly. For example, process researchers will more likely need large samples of raw data that may include combinations of data streams from several experiments or observational systems. Assessment studies will include the synthesis of the output of models that, for example, may characterize the world economy, atmospheric chemistry, ocean circulation, ecological systems, and social preferences and dynamics. Policymakers more likely will seek summarized and evaluated information, much of which will be in the form of text, graphs, and tables.

The GCDIS user community also extends to those agencies, programs, projects, individuals, and others that are sources of the data and information in the GCDIS and for which the GCDIS will provide archiving and distribution. The GCDIS services required by each of the different types of users will differ, but have many aspects in common.

Data and Information Content

The scope and priorities for GCDIS data and information content are driven by the data and information required to carry out current and planned USGCRP activities. The scope of data and information for the GCDIS comprises the Earth science data holdings (including in situ and satellite) of the agencies, selected analyzed and assimilated data sets, selected output from global change models, published documents, and socioeconomic data and information (including the areas of population, economic systems, and political systems and institutions) necessary for the study of human dimensions of global change. A large fraction of these data and information will come from contributing sources rather than from the focused global change research program.

The USGCRP encompasses the geophysical, geochemical, biological, social, and economic sciences and the research involved with integrated assessments of environmental policy issues. Of these areas of activity, however, only a subset of the geosciences has a tradition of institutional support for data and information services provided through data centers. The other disciplines, having no such traditions, presently lack the funding or other incentives to build this structural capability. This difference is reflected by the near-term implementation emphasis in this plan on geophysical data and geophysical data centers.

For the longer term, agencies face a significant task simply to identify the vast array of data and information they currently hold that would contribute toward a better understanding of the environment. Following this identification, based on the highest priority areas of interest, the task is to design and subsequently implement data and information services adequate to support the full breadth of the USGCRP. To start this process, the agencies plan to implement several pilot projects that are intended to broaden the scope of the GCDIS beyond its present emphasis on geophysical data and information.

Data and Information Access Services

The scope of the data and information access services to be provided by the cooperative action of agency elements of the GCDIS includes user service procedures; generic and specialized user interfaces; a hierarchical structure with multiple points of access for identifying relevant data and information sets including directory, guide, and inventory information, library and information center resources, and browse products; data dictionary; search and order functions; data formats for users; and standards for distribution media and user documentation.

International Context

The GCDIS is designed to permit extension to international data and information holders, providers, and users. An important means to access international data and information will be provided initially through existing agency participation in the World Data Center system. This system, conceived and fostered by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), is responsible for archiving and exchanging important environmental data and information among almost all nations. A number of agency data centers associated with the implementation of the GCDIS currently has responsibility under this system for a broad range of important global change data and information. All GCDIS archive sites will be linked to agency data centers with World Data Center status.

Implementation Principles

The data and information management program will be implemented in the context of the following set of high-level principles.

Implementation Drivers

Funding Assumptions

Implementation Approach

Measures of Success

In order to help evaluate how well the GCDIS is meeting the data and information management needs of the USGCRP community, a set of criteria for measuring the success of the GCDIS has been established. Such means of evaluation are critical both for identifying and resolving problem areas and for helping guide the evolution of the GCDIS. The criteria themselves will evolve based on experience with their use and changes of the constraints and environment within which the GCDIS must function. The criteria are as follows:

The user categories for these evaluations will evolve, but initially they will be research (physical, biological, human dimensions), assessment and policy, operations, education, and international.

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