Finding common ground in managing data used for regional environmental assessments
Hale SS, Bahner LH, Paul JF.
Evaluating the overall environmental health of a region invariably involves using databases from multiple organizations. Several approaches to deal with the related technological and sociological issues have been used by various programs. Flexible data systems are required to deal with rapid changes in technology, the social and political climate for sharing and integrating data, and expectations of diverse users. Here we describe how the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program and the Chesapeake Bay Program manage their data for regional studies. These programs, which encompass areas of different geographic scales but face similar issues, have adopted some solutions in common, but also have tried some unique solutions suited to their needs. Understanding the tribulations and successes of these programs may help others attempting similar assessments. Both these programs have embraced distributed data systems that are managed by the organizations owning them. Both use common guidelines and policies that assure consistency and quality of data and information. These principles and tools comprise a flexible, sustainable approach that meets modern challenges of data management.