Environmental Data:

Major Effort Is Needed to Improve NOAA's Data Management and Archiving

IMTEC-91-11: Published: Nov 20, 1990. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) management, storage, and archiving of environmental data collected by space and ground data collection systems.

GAO found that: (1) NOAA did not properly manage, store, or maintain its magnetic tapes, films, and paper records with valuable environmental data; (2) NOAA did not perform an agencywide census or inventory of its data and did not know how many or what data it had and where data were located; (3) poor management of magnetic tapes and film could cause partial or total loss of recorded data, and NOAA noted that some data were already lost and damaged; (4) 22 of the 35 vaults storing over 200,000 of the 440,000 tapes and 370 million film records did not comply with more than half of federal regulations and industry tape management guidelines; (5) each data center facility operated at least one film or tape storage vault which met some of the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) regulations; (6) USGS and NOAA did not give adequate attention and support to managing and archiving environmental data; and (7) NOAA and USGS took immediate actions and planned long-term actions to correct the data management problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA has developed agencywide data management standards and guidelines.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to develop and implement agencywide tape, film, and paper record management and maintenance standards which include all NARA regulations and appropriate National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA plans to obtain new facilities in North Carolina and Colorado to correct the major deficiencies identified in the report. NOAA broke ground for a new storage facility on July 6, 1992. Scheduled completion is late 1994. NARA requirements are incorporated into the design.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to archive valuable scientific data in vaults that meet NARA regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA has migrated over 61,000 tapes to improved media.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to copy valuable data from deteriorating media to archival quality media suitable for long-term retention of digital data, and release unneeded tapes, film, and paper records for reuse or disposal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA recently established science advisory panels to assure that the views of the science community are factored into NOAA management of environmental data.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to assess, in cooperation with the scientific community, the inventoried data for their scientific value and the integrity of their storage media.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA has implemented an Earth System Data Inventory.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to conduct a thorough inventory of all NOAA environmental data, including data on tapes, film, and paper, stored at NOAA centers and contractors, universities, research institutions, and other federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NOAA continues to place increased emphasis on proper data management and storage practices.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should instruct NOAA officials responsible for the management of data to ensure that NOAA data management and archiving operations are allocated adequate resources to properly store and maintain environmental data holdings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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