As part of ongoing efforts to advance environmental data stewardship practices, CICS-NC’s Ge Peng and colleagues from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) recently developed a data stewardship maturity matrix, or DSSM—a unified framework for assessing the maturity of stewardship practices for environmental data sets. In a new paper in D-Lib Magazine, Peng and her colleagues report on initial efforts to put the DSMM into action, using NCEI’s Global Historical Climatology Network–Monthly (GHCN-M) land surface temperature record as a case study.

Since the development of the DSMM, NCEI’s Data Stewardship Division and Center for Weather and Climate have been working together to apply the DSMM to several types of datasets, including satellite-derived Climate Data Records, station-based global land temperature data, and paleoclimate tree-ring data. The goal is to produce consolidated stewardship maturity assessments that can help data users make informed decisions and provide data managers and data providers with actionable recommendations for advancing stewardship efforts. Because GHCN-M has been in use for more than 25 years and serves as a critical input for NCEI’s global monitoring reports as well as national and international climate assessments, it was a logical choice for a detailed case study.  

The Maturity Matrix evaluates nine different stewardship attributes, including Preservability, Accessibility, and Transparency/Traceability, rating each attribute on a scale from Level 1 (not managed) to Level 5 (optimal). Figure 1 shows the summary ratings for GHCN-M, which achieved a rating of at least Level 2 for all attributes, Level 3 for five attributes, and Level 4 for two attributes. The full DSMM scoreboard, which provides details information on the rankings, is shown in Figure 2.

DSMM Rating for GHCN-M

Figure 1: Data stewardship maturity ratings for NOAA NCEI’s GHCN-M dataset. For each of nine attributes, the stars indicate how GHCN-M rates on a scale of Level 1 to Level 5.

GHCN-M Results

High ratings in areas such as Preservability, Production Sustainability, and Data Quality Assurance suggest that GHCN-M is a data set that is likely to be preserved and updated into the future, with mature data quality assurance practices.

Lower ratings for attributes such as Accessibility and Usability point to areas for improvement in getting the data into users hands in a convenient, easily usable format and in making descriptive information about the product more publicly available.

The paper suggests several steps for improving stewardship maturity, and several of these are expected to be addressed in the forthcoming version 4 of GCHN-M, including making additional product descriptive information publicly available, documenting and sharing methods on quality assurance and controls, and serving data through a web service for enhanced usability, transparency, and accessibility.

DSMM Scoreboard for GHCN-M

Figure 2: The detailed Data Stewardship Maturity Matrix scoreboard for GHCN-M version 3. Green boxes indicate the rating level for each attribute. If two cells are shaded green in a given column, the dataset only partially meets the requirements for achieving the higher-level rating. (Click to enlarge)

Next Steps and NOAA OneStop

The outcomes of this case study should provide users with a better understanding of the stewardship maturity of the GHCN-M dataset while also providing both NCEI and other organizations with a roadmap for assessing and improving stewardship practices and dataset quality and usability. Efforts are underway as a part of the NOAA OneStop Project to systematically and automatically generate DSMM reports and integrate DSMM assessment information into ISO collection-level metadata records. To date, the DSMM approach has been applied to more than 600 datasets. The first version of the OneStop data discovery portal is planned to be online in early April 2017.

Learn More

For more on the development of the DSMM itself, see our DSMM Research Highlight. For more information on the GHCN-M data set, please see the NCEI GHCN-M web page.

Peng, G., J. Lawrimore, V. Toner, C. Lief, R. Baldwin, N. Ritchey, D. Brinegar, and S. A. Del Greco, 2016: Assessing Stewardship Maturity of the Global Historical Climatology Network-Monthly (GHCN-M) Dataset: Use Case Study and Lessons Learned. D.-Lib Magazine, 22.