Federal Coordinating Lead Author:
David Reidmiller, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Lead Author:
Christopher W. Avery, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Contributing Authors:
Michael Kolian, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Kenneth E. Kunkel, North Carolina State University
David Herring, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Reid Sherman, U.S. Global Change Research Program/Straughan Environmental
William V. Sweet, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Kathryn Tipton, U.S. Global Change Research Program/ICF
Christopher Weaver, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Data Tools and Scenarios Products


The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), which guided the development of NCA3, recommended in 2013 that the NCA process “manage data to maximize utility and transparency.”19 The report also highlighted the importance of “developing a comprehensive web-based system to deploy and manage global change information and present it in a way that can be used by and benefit scientists, the public, and decision-makers.” To achieve these goals, the USGCRP established the Global Change Information System (GCIS).

The GCIS is an open-source centralized database of all materials and data used for USGCRP assessments (https://data.globalchange.gov/). The system acts as an advanced, multifaceted bibliography, maintaining traceable provenance records of scientific information and providing access to the original data and research. The GCIS catalogs the cross-links among research papers, researchers, original data, and more and includes links back to authoritative sources for its information. GCIS serves as a key supporting resource for assessments produced by the USGCRP, providing information about the data underpinning them. In addition, the GCIS guides users to global change research produced by the 13 USGCRP member agencies.


Each item (for example, a report, dataset, or organization) referenced in the GCIS has a unique, persistent identifier. When possible, this includes or is related to third-party identification systems, such as Universally Unique Identifiers (UUIDs), Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), Open Researcher and Contributor Identifiers (ORCIDs), and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs). This enhances interoperability between the GCIS and other information systems. For resources where such persistent identifiers are unknown, GCIS creates its own, and links between resources are assigned using the identifiers so that edits and corrections made to resource names or other properties do not break data linkages.

Provenance and Semantics

GCIS is built to represent the provenance of information contained in government assessments about global environmental change. GCIS includes in this (following the World Wide Web Consortium’s definition of provenance) “information about entities, activities, and people involved in producing a piece of data or thing, which can be used to form assessments about its quality, reliability or trustworthiness.”20 This information is captured by a combination of documentation by the authors and scripts that ingest machine-readable metadata from online catalogs. Resources in GCIS are related both in relational databases, for cases of ownership (for example, a chapter belongs to a report and doesn’t exist independently), and in a database that represents semantically the nature of the relationship between two resources (for example, a report cites a book, a table is derived from a dataset).


Figure A3.3: Traceability and Provenance in GCIS

Figure A3.3: This figure is a graphic representation of traceability and provenance within the Global Change Information System (GCIS). All records within GCIS seek to have each component of this chain tracked and available to any reader. Tracking each of these components allows for any interested member of the public to trace a conclusion back to the supporting data for that conclusion. Source: USGCRP.


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