(GEODAS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal and Marine Program, the Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) Geospatial Information Database (GIDB) Portal Web Client, and the sites supported by the Coastal Services Center (CSC; e.g., the Ocean Planning Information System [OPIS]). Although each of these groups provides valuable access to data and tools, they still represent only a small percentage of data collected in the coastal zone, and there is an urgent need for a substantial effort to expand on the examples set by these organizations.
As the committee evaluated the current status of data access and availability, the path ahead was clear. There is a need for the establishment of national (and perhaps even international) standards and protocols for data collection, metadata creation, and tools for data transformation and integration. With these, the user community would be able to evaluate the accuracy and timeliness of data, change scales and projections, and seamlessly merge disparate datasets. Most importantly, database and data integration tools must be easily accessible to all users, public and private, from a single digital portal accessible through the Internet.
In exploring strategies for implementing this vision, the committee was often reminded that a mechanism already exists that should have made much of this vision a reality. This mechanism—Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-16 (a directive describing federal agency roles and responsibilities with respect to geospatial data) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) it established—demands many of the processes that the committee has recommended. The FGDC is a federal interagency committee, operating under the auspices of the OMB, with responsibility for facilitating and coordinating federal activities related to geospatial data (see Box 5.1). Recognizing the national importance of geospatial data, the lack of generally accepted standards, and the potential for duplication and inefficiencies in spatial data collection and distribution, the FGDC formally defined the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in 1994. A series of National Research Council reports (NRC, 1993; 1994b; 1995b; 2001) advocated creation of the NSDI and recommended activities and initiatives that the FGDC could undertake to increase awareness, involvement, and usefulness of the NSDI. The OMB recently reissued Circular A-16 to bring it up to date for the 21st century (OMB, 2002). Many of the concerns brought up by the coastal zone user community and noted by the committee are directly addressed by Circular A-16, including the establishment of national standards, interchange formats, and metadata standards for geospatial data; the assurance of compatibility and interchangeability of datasets; the coordination of