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Summary of National Dialogue At Exchange Network National Meeting

Nashville, Tennessee
April 30, 2008

OEI Participant 1: Molly O’Neill mentioned the National Dialogue, can you explain the National Dialogue, who you are trying to engage, and how you are communicating it to other people?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2: At the OEI national meeting, Molly announced the National Dialogue -based on the premise that all Americans are decision makers and the availability of information is more important all the time.  Therefore, it is incumbent on EPA to reach out with new tools and determine what kind of data people want.  As a result, a number of focus groups, in addition to media sessions and industry sessions, electronic ‘jam sessions’ gather feedback and information from people.  On May 28th and 29th, EPA is having a session for state and tribal collaborators to participate in a jam session and put the results up on the National Dialogue website.  (http://www.epa.gov/nationaldialogue)

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: Can you tell us what the relevancy of the National Dialogue is to the Exchange Network (EN)?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2: Information access has been underlying the conversations in the EN.  This meeting and the network is about providing information for people’s consumption.  EPA and the EN are natural collaborators and EPA could learn a lot from EN partners.

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: What do states and tribes bring to information access?

Exchange Network Member 1: States and tribes use data and information to better manage natural resources and are thus closer engaged with those resources.  The concept of data access is simply better communication, which is making jurisdictions irrelevant. 

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: What are the concerns with data publishing?

Exchange Network Member 1: There are two main concerns.  This first is data quality.  We need to be better data stewards of the information we have.  If we share information, we need to be cognizant of the information we manage and need to make it as useful as possible.  The second concern is data security.  We need to ensure that the data you have is available only to those people who need it.  A major component of this is trusted partnerships, especially for publishing, so that we can expand access without decreasing security.

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: What concerns do you have about republishing data?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2: We need to understand these relationships better than we currently do.  Groups that are data owners and advocates for data publishing need to communicate more often. 

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: What does information access look like relative to EPA?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2: First, we cannot forget the digital divide.  EPA cannot walk away from the digital divide and should recognize the need to provide access to data electronically and otherwise so that everyone can have access to the information they need.  Second, we need to provide access to electronic information more simply and quickly.  Third, EPA needs to understand that other partners can contribute and EPA shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone.

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: Are there best practices for sharing information in the tribal community?

Exchange Network Member 2: It’s now time for the EN to work more on fostering projects with small customers - creating tools that anyone can use rather than custom systems for large capacity states.  There is lots of good work being done by small capacity entities and its now important to reach down and provide tools and access for smaller constituencies.  How are you going to help your volunteer monitoring groups or rural counties?

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: Can the Michigan representative talk about the best practices for Michigan?

Exchange Network Member 1: A lot of what we’re doing with the EN isn’t just pushing data to the feds, but the incentive was having a cost effective way to getting data from our regulated community.  We’ve looked at how we can use Web Services to be more effective in our internal organization.   One thing we’ve learned is that it’s not correct to assume that all the people in state government have access to data when they need it.    We’ve streamlined the whole process for information sharing with Web Services to try and solve this problem.  Second, we’ve had success with electronic permitting, making our permits available to the general public, and learned that you don’t want to publish permits that are changing on an annual basis. It requires a lot of work when the permit changes to update the record.  Another best practice, if you want to convince program managers to use the Node and EN, do a Return on Investment.  Document when and how much are you going to get from using Web Services. 

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: Can you talk about unique opportunities to broaden access because of the EN?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2:  We need to fight back against the tendency to hoard data and do it [data publishing] yourself.   We can’t afford to duplicate services over and over again.  This community offers an opportunity to build on the regulatory flows – we have already mastered the technology – let’s take time to leverage the community to go beyond ‘just enough’.  

Network Exchange Member 1:  Working collaboratively with USGS with National Hydrography Dataset.   We see this as a great opportunity to enhance NHD.     This is an opportunity to not recreate same dataset in many different places.

Network Exchange Member 2:  More data, more people.   The EN gives us the opportunity for holistic management.   Using the EN is a key opportunities to have some type of synergy and synthesis of data.  The ability to map information gives the lay person the opportunity to access information.   The whole point is getting that data to people who are making decisions.   The potential of the EN is what is going to make that possible.  

OEI PARTICIPANT 1: What role does evolving technology mean for the EN?

Exchange Network Member 1:  It gives us the ability to have more mobile access.   An example is Smart Mobile devices for the eManifest process.   How can this technology be adapted to collect/submit information?   I am looking at the mobility of the technology to start changing how we use the EN.

OEI PARTICIPANT 2: Building on your comments – moving our focus from what’s under our hood to context based information for the end user.   We have to move increasingly to applied technology and facilitating other to doing the applications.

Exchange Network Member 2:  Not letting the developments get stagnant.   We have made the mistake of letting our developers get stagnant.   We need to ensure that the EN stays relevant and partners can use new technologies that are demonstrated. 

Audience Questions:
1.  I think it’s great that the EPA is reaching out to other federal agencies (USGS, NOAA, CDC), however I think there is a missing partner: non-profit organizations and local government.  They are going to be intimately involved in the local climate change plans and there is no way for those thousands of local governments to access the EN.   We need to look to expand that.   The National Dialogue needs to be expanded to all levels of government.

2.   Academic – Interest in Environmental data for the St. Jones River.   There are so many things I have thought about – If we in North East Florida put together information that has similar characteristics to Yurok we can then be able to compare relevant data sets.

3.  If we get to a point that we have new EN partners that are using EN information that are drawing wrong conclusions do we kick them out of the EN?

OEI PARTICIPANT 2:  If I were talking to an EPA audience – I would say get over that fear – they are going to get that info somehow.    If you are collecting the information and unless it is incredibly protected it is going to get out there somewhere.   All I can say is quality, quality, quality.

4.  UT Dept of Health:  Can you clarify Lab Analytics from Molly’s perspective?

OEI PARTICIPANT 1:  Ensure consistency in reporting laboratory responses.  What the EN can offer is the highway to move the data.  We want to be the highway – you have the business and we want to support your business.    There is potential development work around developing additional standards and schema.  The EN and governance is ready to support and convene this.

5.  I am thinking that we are competing for the same resources – How do you go about approach prioritizing what to make public first?  

OEI PARTICIPANT 2:  Ask your community of interest and if you don’t have one either make one or build one.   Then be prepared to share what you have accomplished.


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