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Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society

COMMUNITY WHITE PAPER10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.41

NetCDF-CF-OPeNDAP: Standards for Ocean Data Interoperability and Object Lessons for Community Data Standards Processes

Steve C. Hankin(1), Jon D. Blower(2), Thierry Carval(3), Kenneth S. Casey(4), Craig Donlon(5), Olivier Lauret(6), Thomas Loubrieu(3), Ashwanth Srinivasan(7), Joaquin Trinanes(8), Øystein Godøy(9), Roy Mendelssohn(10), Rich Signell(11), Jeff de La Beaujardiere(12), Peter Cornillon(13), Frederique Blanc(14), Russ Rew(15), Jack Harlan(12)

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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.

1NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE 98115 Seattle USA
2Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading, Harry Pitt Bld, 3 Earley Gate, Reading, RG6 6AL, UK
3IFREMER (French Institute for Exploitation of the Sea/Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer), Centre de Brest, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France
4National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Oceanographic Data Center (NOAANODC), 1315 East West Highway, 4th Floor Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282. USA
5European Space Agency, Keplerlaan 1, 2201AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
6CLS (Collecte Localisation Satellites) Space Oceanography Division, 8-10, rue Hermès, Parc Technologique du Canal, 31520 Ramonville Saint-Agne, France
7Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2840, USA
8University of Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
9Norwegian Meteorological Institute, P.O .BOX 43, Blindern, N-0313 Oslo, Norway
10NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)/Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 1352 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950-2097 USA
11US Geological Survey, 384 Woods Hole Rd, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1598, USA
12NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)/Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program, 1100 Wayne Ave., Suite 1225, Silver Spring MD 20910, USA
13Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, 215 South Ferry Road; Narragansett, RI 02882 USA
14CLS (Collecte Localisation Satellites) Space Oceanography Division, 8-10, rue Hermès,, Parc Technologique du Canal, 31520 Ramonville Saint-Agne, France
15Unidata/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000 USA

Correspondence should be addressed to E-mail: steven.c.hankin@noaa.gov

This paper shall be cited as:

Hankin, S. & Co-Authors (2010). "NetCDF-CF-OPeNDAP: Standards for Ocean Data Interoperability and Object Lessons for Community Data Standards Processes" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 2), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.41

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