This page provides materials relevant to specific issues being addressed by the NOAA Observing Systems Council (NOSC).

Definitions approved by NOSC for use throughout NOAA


  1. Environment The biological, chemical, physical, and social conditions that surround organisms. When appropriate, the term, environment, should be qualified as biological, chemical, physical, and/or social.

  2. Ecosystem A geographically specified system of organisms (including humans), the environment, and the processes that control its dynamics.

  3. Observing System A collection of one or more sensing elements (human and/or instrument) that reside on fixed or mobile platforms; directly or indirectly measuring environmental parameters on a defined basis meeting data user objectives.

  4. Integrated Observing System A planned, organized, and structured system of interoperable earth observing systems, which, when networked, provide an expanded range of capabilities satisfying user information and product needs. An integrated observing system holds common goals and adopts common solutions to achieve them.

  5. Data Management consists of two major activities conducted in coordination: data management services and data stewardship. They constitute a comprehensive end-to-end process including movement of data and information from the observing system sensors to the data user. This process includes the acquisition, quality control, metadata cataloging, validation, reprocessing, storage, retrieval, dissemination, and archival of data.

  6. Data Management services is a subset of Data Management and includes adherence to agreed-upon standards; ingesting data, developing collections, and creating products; maintaining data bases; ensuring permanent, secure archival; providing both user-friendly and machine-interoperable access; assisting users; migrating services to emerging technologies; and responding to user feedback.

  7. Data Stewardship is a subset of Data Management and consists of the application of rigorous analyses and oversight to ensure that data sets meet the needs of users. This includes documenting measurement practices and processing practices (metadata); providing feedback on observing system performance; inter-comparison of data sets for validation; reprocessing (incorporate new data, apply new algorithms, perform bias corrections, integrate/blend data sets from different sources or observing systems); and recommending corrective action for errant or non-optimal operations.

  8. Interoperability The ability of two or more systems to exchange and mutually use information.

  9. Data Management and Observing System Interoperability The ability of two or more systems to exchange and mutually use data, metadata, information, or system parameters using established protocols or standards.