A comment by J. Wright Horton, Jr. about
(a) Can we really develop common science-language standards on a continent-wide basis? * Yes, to the extent that the standards follow established common usage and are accepted by the scientific community. (b) Can we really do this at a level deeper than "granite versus basalt" or "glacial versus deltaic" or "geologic contact versus fault," etc.? * Yes, but what we "can" do is less important than what we "should" do. Don't do anything that isn't clearly (1) useful in a geologic map database and (2) practical for those who produce it. (c) What role do regional geologic differences and geologic-mapping traditions play in the development of science-language standards? * Universal, authoritative standards should be the goal of negotiation and compromise. Irreconcilable differences can be handled case by case. (d) Should there be one single terminology standard, or multiple standards linked by translators and equivalency tables? * The goal should be unified science-language standards that transcend and supersede current regional and organizational differences. Organizations that accept other standards can devise their own translators and tables. Standards are not laws, so to be successful, they will have to be scientifically authoritative and widely accepted. (e) What kinds of scientific queries should be supported by standard terminologies at the National, Regional, and Local levels, and should a single science-language structure support each and all levels? * A single, standard science terminology should be applied at all levels, and thus will be limited by the lowest common denominator of agreement and acceptance. Organizations developing more specialized databases for their own purposes can make them compatible with the general standards. (f) To what audience(s) will the data-model science language speak on behalf of our various agencies? Technical only? Hybrid technical and non-technical? One language for technical, a second language for non-technical? * All audiences are important, of course, but technical standards must come first to assure that they are accepted by the scientific community. Non-technical translations (not necessarily involving SLTT) can follow. "Don't put the cart before the horse." (g) What does each map-producing agency expect to query (search for and retrieve) from geologic-map data bases produced by the data model? (agency point of view) * Geologists and their agenices are well represented on the SLTT. Spatial geologic-information needs of other current and potential "customers" are identified in the proceedings of regional geologic mapping forums such as USGS Circular 1148. (h) What kind of geologic information will the typical geologist expect to put INTO the data model and retrieve FROM it? (geologist point of view) * A widespread concern of geologists who make geologic maps (and of users who need timely information) is that database requirements will become so cumbersome and costly that they will be an obstacle to the production and timely release of geologic map information. (i) What kinds of interdisciplinary science should be incorporated into the data model science language? Or, put differently, how should the data model be structured and populated to ensure its utility to the geophysics, geo-engineering, earthquake, geochemical, and hydrogeologic communities? * Scientific users need (1) technical definitions applied consistently, and (2) clear distinctions between observed and interpreted features. Engineers who use geologic maps and reports are commonly frustrated by the lack of standardization in descriptive terminology. (j) What kinds of feature-level locational-accuracy issues should be addressed by our science language, as these bear on agency accountability? * Variations in location accuracy are not a problem if honestly presented. Standards are not laws, and in most cases they should not be legally binding if court cases should arise involving location accuracy. Location accuracy issues are outside the realm of "science language" with the possible exception of terms such as "approximately located." * GIS technicians and users should understand what geologists call "the tyranny of the base map." For example, GPS locations more accurate than the base map have to be ignored where it is more important to preserve correct spatial relations between geologic features and base features such as topography and drainage. (k) What kinds of feature-level scientific-confidence issues should be addressed by our science language, as these bear on agency accountability? * Scientific confidence issues are commonly addressed by terms such as "inferred" and "hypothetical." * Because digital geologic maps are "scale independent," a common misuse (and temptation even for people who know better) is enlarging the maps beyond their range of scientific confidence. How can the language for resolution or scale of acquisition indicate that blowing up the digital version of a map originally compiled at 1:250,000-scale to something like 1:24,000 misrepresents the level of detail and resolution? Terms such as "detailed" and "reconnaissance" are not uniformly applied, and variations in local geology preclude rigid formulas based on the density of structure symbols or number of well logs. (l) What kinds of feature-level data-origination issues should be addressed in our science language, as these bear on agency accountability? * This is not a "science language" issue except for terms such as "compiled from," "adapted from," or "modified from." * Standard practices for authorship, acknowledgments, and bibliographic references in scientific publications, including maps, are well established and apply to digital as well as printed media.
Further discussion of Response to "Some generic issues to consider" (this page):
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