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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

Finding the Forest in the Trees

The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data

Selected Case Studies

Committee for a Pilot Study on Database Interfaces

U.S. National Committee for CODATA

Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1995

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

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 report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Support for this project was provided by the Department of Energy (under Grant No. DE-FG-02-92ER61514); the Environmental Protection Agency (under Contract No. 68D10096); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (under Contract No. W88958); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (under Contract No. 50SBNB3C7500); and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (through Grant No. INT-9118880). Although the results described in this document have been funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Assistance Agreement to the National Academy of Sciences, the document has not been subjected to the Agency's peer and administrative review and therefore may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agencies.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 95-67403

International Standard Book Number 0-309-05082-0

Additional copies of this report are available from:
National Academy Press
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area)

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Copyright 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

COMMITTEE FOR A PILOT STUDY ON DATABASE INTERFACES

G. BRUCE WIERSMA,

University of Maine,

Chair

SHELTON A. ALEXANDER,

Pennsylvania State University

DELBERT BARTH,

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

MARION BAUMGARDNER,

Purdue University

BROCK BERNSTEIN,

EcoAnalysis, Inc.

DALE A. BRUNS,

Wilkes University

ALI H. GHOVANLOU,

MITRE Corporation

ROBERT E. MUNN,

University of Toronto

ESTELLE RUSSEK-COHEN,

University of Maryland

Staff

Paul F. Uhlir, Associate Executive Director,

Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications

Julie M. Esanu, Research Assistant

David J. Baskin, Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

U.S. NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR CODATA

DAVID R. LIDE, Jr.,

National Institute of Standards and Technology

(retired), Chair

STANLEY M. BESEN,

Charles River Associates, Inc.

LOIS D. BLAINE,

American Type Culture Collection

ALI H. GHOVANLOU,

MITRE Corporation

JULIAN HUMPHRIES,

Cornell University

MICAH I. KRICHEVSKY,

Bionomics International

KENNETH N. MARSH,

Texas A&M University

GOETZ OERTEL,

Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

STANLEY RUTTENBERG,

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

(retired)

PAMELA SAMUELSON,

University of Pittsburgh

JACK H. WESTBROOK,

Brookline Technologies

Staff

Paul F. Uhlir, Associate Executive Director,

Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications

Julie M. Esanu, Research Assistant

David J. Baskin, Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND APPLICATIONS

RICHARD N. ZARE,

Stanford University,

Chair

RICHARD S. NICHOLSON,

American Association for the Advancement of Science,

Vice Chair

STEPHEN L. ADLER,

The Institute for Advanced Study

SYLVIA T. CEYER,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

SUSAN L. GRAHAM,

University of California at Berkeley

ROBERT J. HERMANN,

United Technologies Corporation

RHONDA J. HUGHES,

Bryn Mawr College

SHIRLEY A. JACKSON,

Rutgers University

KENNETH I. KELLERMANN,

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

HANS MARK,

University of Texas at Austin

THOMAS A. PRINCE,

California Institute of Technology

JEROME SACKS,

National Institute of Statistical Sciences

L.E. SCRIVEN,

University of Minnesota

A. RICHARD SEEBASS III,

University of Colorado

LEON T. SILVER,

California Institute of Technology

CHARLES P. SLICHTER,

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ALVIN W. TRIVELPIECE,

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

SHMUEL WINOGRAD,

IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

CHARLES A. ZRAKET,

MITRE Corporation

(retired)

NORMAN METZGER, Executive Director

PAUL F. UHLIR, Associate Executive Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

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 Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts 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. Robert M. White 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. Kenneth I. Shine 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. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

Preface

The U.S. National Committee (USNC) for the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) created the Committee for a Pilot Study on Database Interfaces (the committee) to review and advise on data interfacing activities because of the increasing importance of conducting interdisciplinary environmental research and assessments, both nationally and internationally. CODATA is an interdisciplinary body of the International Council of Scientific Unions concerned with all types of quantitative data resulting from experimental measurements or observations in the physical, biological, geological, and astronomical sciences. The USNC/CODATA is a standing committee organized under the National Research Council (NRC) to represent U.S. interests in the international CODATA.

The charge to the committee from the USNC/CODATA was as follows:

The committee will identify data management problems and issues associated with physical, biological, and chemical parameters that are important to interdisciplinary environmental research, particularly as it relates to long-term global change studies such as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program. The committee also will look at reducing barriers that may occur in interfacing biological and ecological databases with geophysical and remote sensing databases. The committee will propose guidelines for interfacing interdisciplinary environmental data.

The report does not address in detail the mathematical and statistical

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

aspects associated with data interfacing activities, which were the topic of a recent NRC report, Combining Information: Statistical Issues and Opportunities for Research (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992). Nor does it address the issue of technical barriers in the electronic storage and distribution of interdisciplinary environmental data. Rather, the focus is on helping researchers and technicians engaged in interdisciplinary research, particularly those projects that involve both geophysical and ecological issues, to better plan and implement their supporting data management activities. It also is aimed at informing those individuals responsible for funding, managing, or evaluating such studies and activities.

G. Bruce Wiersma, Chair

Committee for a Pilot Study on Database Interfaces

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

Acknowledgments

The committee for a Pilot Study on Database Interfaces used six case studies to derive the conclusions and recommendations presented in this report.

For the information they provided on the Impact Assessment Project for Drought Early Warning in the Sahel, the case study described in Chapter 2, the committee is grateful to Gerald Barton, Susan Callis, Douglas LeComte, and Sharon LeDuc of NOAA.

The committee began its review of the Aquatic Processes and Effects portion of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP), the case study described in Chapter 3, by interviewing or obtaining presentations from key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) participants. EPA scientists also suggested additional individuals who could provide more specific information on selected aspects of the studies. Patricia Irving, executive director of NAPAP at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) until April 1992 and Jack Barnes of her staff were contacted to obtain all the relevant references.

On a February 1992 site visit to the EPA Research Laboratory at Corvallis, Oregon, the committee interviewed Dixon Landers, M. Robbins Church, Jeffrey Lee, and Parker J. Wigington—all of whom played key roles in EPA's implementation of the NAPAP Research Plan on Aquatic Processes and Effects (Interagency Task Force on Acid Precipitation, Washington, D.C., 1982). The committee subsequently obtained presentations from Robb Turner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on the subject of data management, and from Joan Baker, the Cadmus Group, regarding the

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

biological effects of acid precipitation. Derek Winstanley, the executive director of NAPAP after Dr. Irving, also briefed the committee on plans to continue NAPAP, as authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

Finally, the chair of the subcommittee for this case study conducted informal interviews at EPA's Environmental Monitoring Systems Laboratory in Las Vegas, Nevada, with key scientists who were involved with the implementation of EPA's portion of NAPAP. These included Gene Meier, Robert Schonbrod, Daniel Heggem, and Louis Blume.

The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) subcommittee met in Corvallis, Oregon, on November 5–6, 1992, to gather information for the case study on the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest LTER site, described in Chapter 4. Members were briefed on the first day by the Andrews Forest staff and by the faculty of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University (OSU). The individuals providing the briefings and input were Susan Stafford, director of the Quantitative Sciences Group; Hazel Hammond, GIS software specialist; Donald Henshaw, U.S. Forest Service database manager; Gody Spycher, OSU database manager; Rudolf Nottrott, LTER database manager; and Arthur McKee, director, Andrews Forest and LTER principal co-investigator. On the second day the committee went with Arthur McKee, Donald Henshaw, and Rudolf Nottrott for a site visit to the Andrews Forest.

Robert Cushman presented a briefing on the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), the subject of Chapter 5, to the committee in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1992. Following this, several members of the committee met in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on May 18–19, 1992, to gather more detailed information about the Center's data management and analysis activities. Briefings were carried out by ORNL and CDIAC staff—Paul Kanciruk, Thomas Boden, Robert Cushman, and Frederick Stoss. These covered the history of the Center and its management structure, the hardware and software systems currently being used, the types of data packages produced, and the philosophy and procedures underlying the Center's work in managing and integrating the data.

In November 1992, the committee was briefed by Forrest G. Hall of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Donald E. Strebel of Versar, Inc. in Columbia, Maryland, and received extensive documentation on the First ISLSCP Field Experiment (FIFE), the case study described in Chapter 6. In particular, the FIFE scientists prepared very helpful written responses to a series of specific questions posed in advance by the committee. The committee also acknowledges with thanks the information on FIFE that it received through R.E. Munn from W. Brutsaert (Cornell University), R.L. Desjardins (Agriculture Canada), and J. Kay (University of Waterloo).

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×

In Chapter 7, the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation (CalCOFI) case study draws on written material prepared by the Panel on the Southern California Bight of the NRC's Committee on a Systems Assessment of Marine Environmental Monitoring. It also benefited from conversations with John McGowan of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and George Hemingway, CalCOFI coordinator.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1995. Finding the Forest in the Trees: The Challenge of Combining Diverse Environmental Data. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4896.
×
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During the last few decades of the 20th century, the development of an array of technologies has made it possible to observe the Earth, collect large quantities of data related to components and processes of the Earth system, and store, analyze, and retrieve these data at will. Over the past ten years, in particular, the observational, computational, and communications technologies have enabled the scientific community to undertake a broad range of interdisciplinary environmental research and assessment programs. Sound practice in database management are required to deal with the problems of complexity in such programs and a great deal of attention and resources has been devoted to this area in recent years. However, little guidance has been provided on overcoming the barriers frequently encountered in the interfacing of disparate data sets. This book attempts to remedy that problem by providing analytical and functional guidelines to help researchers and technicians to better plan and implement their supporting data management activities.

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