Pilot Testing Data Stewardship Processes on River Restoration and Hydrologic Data Sets

Project ID: 3760
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013 and 2014
Keywords: data, data stewardship, river restoration, mission critical data, business data steward, resources information class

Research Question

This research will provide pilot tests of the draft data stewardship processes and procedures on several river restoration projects and on hydrologic data gathering activities across Reclamation, as directed by the Reclamation Leadership Team in 2011. It will be a two year effort. The purpose is to harvest and analyze information about successful data stewardship efforts both within river restoration projects and within efforts such as Hydromet, where hydrological data are being collected, evaluated, and managed. The research team will identify challenges that have been met and lessons that have been learned during the whole data lifecycle: planning, acquisition, evaluation, maintenance, access, analysis, reporting, and archival. We will be asking how data stewardship efforts were planned to meet decision-maker needs, insure data quality, and facilitate sharing. In addition, the research proposes to examine how best to plan for, create, and evaluate (a. a permanent data stewardship coordinating team within Reclamation, (b. one or more template data acquisition and managment plans, and (c. one or more Reclamation-wide business data steward positions of mission critical data.

Need and Benefit

The aim of data stewardship is to improve Reclamation's management of data as an important asset for decision-makers. An independent body assessing one of Reclamation's river restoration efforts concluded the following: "M&E ("monitoring and evaluation") activities are not integrated into a coordinated framework for the anadromous fish program, nor are standard protocols or an integrated database utilized. We recommend the agencies develop an M&E plan consistent with the overarching program framework... This will include developing a standard set of monitoring protocols and an integrated multiagency data management system, and then using the information collected within a scientifically valid adaptive management program." Data stewardship, the independent body concluded, is essential to adaptive management and essential to a successful river restoration effort. Without data stewardship data sets are gathered using disparate protocols, standards, evaluation processes, maintenance procedures, analysis techniques, reporting standards, and archival processes. Data are often poorly documented, if they are documented at all. Data sets cannot be "rolled up" to create Reclamation-wide reports because one data set is not compatible with others. Without stewardship databases can and do become compromised or corrupted entirely. In short, when data are not treated as valuable assets, decision-makers are forced to choose amongst management options using less than optimal information. This is true for river restoration project data and it is also true for mission critical data sets within important data domains such as endangered species, power, and water. Currently, Reclamation can only approximate how much water it delivers, for instance, because water data sets are scattered everywhere and lack full compatibility. Thus, Reclamation has a vital interest in rationalizing the data stewardship processes associated with hydrologic data because its management depends upon good information to make decisions with far-ranging consequences. To accomplish desired data stewardship best practices bureauwide will require creation of a corporate data management body, i.e. an inter-regional data stewardship coordination team. What the team structure will be, what skill sets it will require, and what processes will be used to foster corporate data stewardship are all issues that deserve thoughtful deliberation in consultation with senior management. This research proposes to conduct those deliberations and consultations. Following the draft policy put forth to the Reclamation Leadership Team in 2011, this research effort addresses data stewardship from the conception of an information need through logical design, physical collection, analysis, and ongoing maintenance of data assets. All work conducted will be guided by that policy first, by recognizing certain large domains of data called "resources information classes" (RICs)(such as hydrology, power, lands, and infrastructure) and second, by seeking to identify and manage mission critical resources data sets(MRCDs)within them. For the hydrologic RIC, we will select a qualified volunteer subject matter expert to act as an interim Business Data Steward (BDS)to oversee the inventory of hydrolgic data collections and develop recommended best data stewardship practices. Finally, in keeping with the 2011 Policy, one or more Data Acquisition and Management Plan (DAMP) templates will be tested both at the RIC level and at the project level. Thus, the research team will conduct a test run of data stewardship within the agency both within a RIC and within river restoration projects.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Independent Peer Review

The following documents were reviewed by qualified Bureau of Reclamation employees. The findings were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Survey of River Restoration Programs Concerning Data Stewardship Successes and Challenges (interim, PDF, 648KB)
By Douglas Clark, Dr. Curtis Brown, Jim Nagode and Mr. Art Coykendall
Report completed on November 14, 2013

The two most frequently mentioned themes in this survey or river restoration data stewards were technology and collaboration. River restoration programs are often enormous undertakings. Vast amounts of data must be acquired, evaluated, analyzed, reported on, submitted to decision-makers and shared. Multiple federal, state, and local agencies, private entities, and multiple stakeholders take part. Such undertakings would be impossible without digital technology and without collaboration.

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Pilot Testing Data Stewardship Processes (final, PDF, 1.6MB)
By Douglas Clark, Jim Nagode, Mr. Art Coykendall, Ms. Barbara Simpson and Ms. Julie Eldredge
Report completed on September 04, 2014

Reclamation assembled an inter-regional research team to investigate data stewardship processes in the agency with the prime focus on river restoration programs. The team learned that technology and collaboration are the primary predictors of successful data management. Other important factors included upper management support, data management expertise, holistic planning, and adequate funding. In the future, Reclamation will join DOI Open Data efforts and tailor agency policy to Departmental

Managing Datasets for Monitoring, Evaluating, and Decisionmaking (final, PDF, 947KB)
By Douglas Clark
Publication completed on September 30, 2014

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20