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NetCDF-CF-OPeNDAP: Standards for ocean data interoperability and object lessons for community data standards processes

January 1, 2010

It is generally recognized that meeting society's emerging environmental science and management needs will require the marine data community to provide simpler, more effective and more interoperable access to its data. There is broad agreement, as well, that data standards are the bedrock upon which interoperability will be built. The path that would bring the marine data community to agree upon and utilize such standards, however, is often elusive. In this paper we examine the trio of standards 1) netCDF files; 2) the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata convention; and 3) the OPeNDAP data access protocol. These standards taken together have brought our community a high level of interoperability for "gridded" data such as model outputs, satellite products and climatological analyses, and they are gaining rapid acceptance for ocean observations. We will provide an overview of the scope of the contribution that has been made. We then step back from the information technology considerations to examine the community or "social" process by which the successes were achieved. We contrast the path by which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has advanced the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) - netCDF/CF/OPeNDAP exemplifying a "bottom up" standards process whereas GTS is "top down". Both of these standards are tales of success at achieving specific purposes, yet each is hampered by technical limitations. These limitations sometimes lead to controversy over whether alternative technological directions should be pursued. Finally we draw general conclusions regarding the factors that affect the success of a standards development effort - the likelihood that an IT standard will meet its design goals and will achieve community-wide acceptance. We believe that a higher level of thoughtful awareness by the scientists, program managers and technology experts of the vital role of standards and the merits of alternative standards processes can help us as a community to reach our interoperability goals faster.

Publication Year 2010
Title NetCDF-CF-OPeNDAP: Standards for ocean data interoperability and object lessons for community data standards processes
DOI 10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.41
Authors Steven C. Hankin, Jon D. Blower, Thierry Carval, Kenneth S. Casey, Craig Donlon, Olivier Lauret, Thomas Loubrieu, Ashwanth Srinivasan, Joaquin Trinanes, Øystein Godøy, Roy Mendelssohn, Richard P. Signell, Jeff de La Beaujardiere, Peter Cornillon, Frederique Blanc, Russ Rew, Jack Harlan
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70190357
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center