Humanity is poised to take the next major steps toward an interdisciplinary, worldwide revolution in the way we store, access, and analyze information. For the geosciences, our ability to gather data about the Earth and its space environment is unprecedented. We can obtain data and services via the Internet and grid systems from anywhere in the world, we can store and serve data with true interoperability, and we can deal with real-time data applications, assimilate data into models, build virtual observatories, and more.
The challenges of organizing and using data effectively expand as data volumes, data complexity, the need for interoperability, and our ability to access data and information increase. In particular, there remains great reluctance among research scientists and others to invest time in good data management practices and thereby ensure that publicly funded data are openly available for use and reuse. The reason is simple: Research scientists are rewarded only for doing research. The science community lacks any recognized system for publishing and citing data sets and for rewarding efforts to make data sets freely available and interoperable.