Guidelines for Distributing EMAP Information Via the Internet
Donald E. Strebel and Jeffrey B. Frithsen.
The Internet is a world-wide confederation of computer networks that makes possible the exchange of electronic messages, information, and data files. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has developed a public access server to provide diverse users convenient and nearly instantaneous access to data and information pertaining to the Agency and its varied programs via the Internet. The Information Management Task Group of the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) began in June 1994 to distribute data and information about the program using the Agency's public access server. Following the outline of activities presented in the EMAP Information Management Strategic Plan (Shepanek 1994), efforts to publish EMAP data and information using the public access server will expand as the transition to the Oracle relational database is completed.
The present report details procedures for publishing EMAP data using the Agency's public access server. This will be a cooperative activity. Task groups will be responsible for the contents of their sections on the server, while the common infrastructure and significant additional work entailed by publishing data and information in this way will be provided by the EMAP Information Management staff.
The public access server can be used by the task groups to provide unrestricted access to any type of information that can be encoded and transmitted in digital form. As a general principle, any data that is ready for public release is publishable. Data should be prepared suitably and accompanied by metadata sufficient to make the data understandable and usable by unknown users over a period of years.
Once the data or information has been prepared for release by the task groups, a process analogous to formal publication of scientific results will be initiated. This process has four broad phases: Submission, Editorial Processing, Formatting, and Public Release. Task group and EMAP Information Management (IM) staff have alternating roles in completing these phases, as outlined below.Submission
The Task Group submits data and its associated metadata, along with appropriate publication designations, instructions, authorization, and approvals. This will normally occur through FTP transfer to a restricted access directory on the USEPA Internet server.
The IM Staff logs the submission and conducts appropriate quality assurance (QA) checks and reviews. If necessary, the Task Group revises the submission to meet publication standards. The IM Staff will not alter the content of any submission.
The IM Staff posts the submission to the EPA Public Access Server.
Data and documentation that are not ready for public release may still be made available via the limited access internal server. In this case, the overall publication process will be similar, but several of the detailed steps will be abbreviated or eliminated. For example, formal publication authorization will not be required, QA checks will be limited, and reformatting will not be performed. While the submission will be tracked, backed up, and maintained in the standard way, the public release step will not occur.
Technical and scientific support for the data and information publication effort will be provided by the EMAP Information Management staff. This support includes the activities mentioned above, along with general maintenance of the directories, files, and interface on the server, compilation of access statistics and user comments, limited support for conversion to standard formats, and assistance with technical problems encountered by users or the task group staff.