The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System program is pleased to announce today that all 11 regional associations (RAs) have been certified by NOAA as meeting federal standards for data gathering and management. In simple terms, that means that ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes data and information from these non-federal System partners can now be used with the same confidence and assurances as federal data.
Bob Houtman, IOOC Co-Chair and Program Director of Ocean Sciences Division at the National Science Foundation adds, “certification ensures higher-quality data and safety of integrating external ocean data into the federal government, giving the public reliable information for decision-making and leading to new discoveries and capabilities through innovative research.”
Certification offers significant benefits to both data users and RAs:
- The Federal government stands behind it: NOAA is stating that the RA’s data management practices meet rigorous standards developed by NOAA on behalf of the Interagency Ocean Observing Committee. This means that data from certified RAs to be used anywhere federal data is used, and NOAA extends liability coverage to include use of data from certified RAs.
- Increased data utility: Data management and communication practices are documented and accessible, which improves data and information utility by allowing cross-checking and explaining procedures. In addition, federal sources are able to use this data without spending time and resources on additional QC and can integrate it into their resources and products.
- Certification transparency: To be certified, each Regional Association makes available documentation concerning governance and data management practices. Additionally, certified regions are required to archive data at a national center, facilitating long-term data access.
"Certification is the end result of 3 years of hard work in the regions and nationally," said Carl C. Gouldman, Director of the U.S. IOOS program. "System-wide certification is a monumental accomplishment, both for the Integrated Ocean Observing System and for the nation in terms of improving access to and integration of regional observations for the public good. Going ahead, there will be more critical decision-making data available to more users in more places, and we're excited to be able to announce this."
The 11 RAs are non-federal partners that provide observing coverage for the U.S. coastal zone, from the head of tide to the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone. They offer data and information in raw form as well as specialized products and tools built to provide quick access to historic data, tailored weather views, fishing and recreational portals, and more. The data are also included in the U.S. IOOS data catalog and incorporated into IOOS data products. Developing standards for certification and a process to certify regions is called for in the Integrated Coast and Ocean Observing Act of 2009, and is critical step in developing U.S. IOOS as a fully scalable framework that offers users to use, contribute to, and benefit from data locally, nationally, and globally.
Initiated in 2015, the process to certify a Regional Association as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) involves each RA working closely with the U.S. IOOS program to document and institute specific practices in regard to data collection, governance, and management. Each RA submits extensive documentation of these practices and structures which is then vetted and recommended for approval by the U.S. IOOS program office before NOAA grants certified status.