Fostering Data Stewardship Best Practices in Reclamation

Project ID: 3840
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015, 2016 and 2017
Keywords: data, data stewardship, data management

Research Question

Data stewardship is in ferment across the across the Department of the Interior and, indeed, across the Federal Government. The USGS, the BLM, the FWS, the NPS and other bureaus have undertaken major data management initiatives. On May 09, 2013, the President signed the Open Data Executive Order 13642 making open and machine readable data the new default for Federal government information. Pursuant to this executive order, Reclamation has instituted the Water Data Initiative headed by Regional Director, Terry Fulp to (a. "publish water and other mission-related data" and (b. make "Reclamation resources data more comparable and shareable."
The purpose of this research and development proposal is to support the Water Data Initiative and the related DOI Secretarial Water Initiative that will be launched in FY2016. Both of these efforts will lay the groundwork for implementation of data stewardship within Reclamation.

Need and Benefit

Fundamentally, there exists within Reclamation an important decision-making requirement for broad access to up-to-date data related to water and associated resources. Such access improves a decision-maker's ability to comprehend existing conditions (e.g. stream flows, current storage, drought stage, etc.) to respond to a variety of short and longer term challenges (eg. minimum flows for endangered species or climate variability). Similarly, the value to the public and other agencies of Reclamation data on hydropower generation, land resources, facilities, and a wide range of species recovery and restoration programs will be increased by improving data comparability and accessibility. The goal of the Water Data Initiative and this research and development effort would be to support: (a. activities that improve data management, (b. efforts by USBR data communities to develop or adopt standards, (c. the development of improved inventories of data assets, (d. sharing of data with the public, and (e. exchange of best practices, tools, and methods across Reclamation.

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 within Reclamation are often poorly documented, if they are documented at all. Data sets cannot be "rolled up" to create bureau-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. 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.

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.

Training Materials for Data Management in Reclamation (final, PDF, 1.9MB)
By Doug Clark
Publication completed on June 30, 2016

In the wake of the Department of the Interior Data Management policy initiatives and the Open Data Executive Order Reclamatio n has been embarking on implementation of data management best practices within the agency. The USBR Data Stewardship Core Team (DSCT), active for n early a decade, saw development of training materials as an important first step. Ms. Barbara Simpson, a member of that team, regularly conducts data management training using three training modules developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Her students have found the modules to be very informative, as has the DSCT. The team determined, however, that supplementary Reclamation-related materials would help make the concepts of data management provided in the modules more intelligible to USBR users. This document provides those supplementary materials.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20