The Business Case for Improving NOAA’s Management and Integration of Ocean and Coastal Data

Publication Type  Report
Authors  Zdenka Willis
Year  2009

One of NOAA’s most valuable assets is the data that it collects. Ocean and coastal data are critical to NOAA’s ability to deliver the products and services that provide significant, tangible benefits to society. Because of this, it is vital that users are able to access the vast stores of physical, biological, and chemical ocean data.
To respond to user needs, the NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS)
Program proposes to facilitate access to ocean and coastal data by improving the way data are integrated and managed. NOAA directed the IOOS Program to deliver a business case to address the capability gaps and potential solutions identified by the IOOS Program.
This business case provides the rationale for improving NOAA ocean data management and integration, describes the demand for and value of ocean and coastal data, describes the current approach to supplying these data, and provides a detailed description of how an ocean data management solution can be achieved by evolving the current Data Integration Framework (DIF) efforts into a comprehensive Data Management and Communication (DMAC) capability.
While there are many existing NOAA data integration efforts that focus on supporting a few models and tools, there is no comprehensive data management approach. NOAA and end users are spending significant amounts of time, sometimes 25 to 50 percent of an FTE, to access, format, and ingest the data for very product or output delivered. Smaller scale investments have yielded benefits for some users, but these are not available to all potential users, due to the limited scope of the solution. Research in private industry has found that quick fix solutions are less likely to generate the level of sustained benefit that an enterprise-wide data management solution can provide.
This business case uses cost-benefit analysis to estimate the expected Net Present Value (NPV) to NOAA of an investment in DMAC. Using information collected from NOAA data users, the business case assesses the impacts of the current ocean data management structure, and estimates the potential benefits of a proposed new data management system. This business case also recognizes that there are significant benefits to non-NOAA organizations and to society at large; however, these benefits cannot be fully quantified and, therefore, have not been included in the cost-benefit analysis.
The analysis indicates that an investment in DMAC would likely generate a NPV between $38 and $60 million dollars over a 15-year period. While this estimate does not include the benefits to non-NOAA users and the public, a significant body of literature estimates that societal benefits created by an integrated ocean observing system enabled by DMAC is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The DMAC solution offers NOAA a feasible approach to implementing a data
management solution that responds to the needs of a broad user community.
Overall, the costs of development are small relative to the societal benefits, and the large internal benefit to NOAA indicates that DMAC is a low-risk investment.

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