Re: Some generic issues to consider

Thu May 11 10:35:23 2000

A comment by Elizabeth D. Koozmin about

Some generic issues to consider

by Jonathan C. Matti

(a) can we really develop common science-language standards on a
continent-wide basis?

   Maybe--Development of standards on a continent-wide basis may be more
easily accomplished if the standards are keptsimple.  If we use documents
such as the North American Code of Stratigraphic Nomenclature or the Draft
Cartographic and Digital Standard as examples of continentwide standards
that consider a wide variety of users, then we see that science-language
standards are also possible.

(b) can we really do this at a level deeper than “granite versus basalt” or
“glacial versus deltaic” or “geologic contact versus fault”, etc?

   Maybe--Again, if we consider the wide variety of audiences, then the level
should not be deep; detailed terminology may cause both database authors and
users to "tune out." For instance, does the field geologist really need to
make a distinction between microcrystalline and cryptocrystalline chert on
the map, or is it just an intellectual exercise that can be saved for some
other, more focused medium?  Does the land-use planner who is trying to site
a new school building care if the bedrock contains microcrystalline chert or
cryptocrystalline chert? Keep in mind that we are not writing this standard
just for the USGS and State surveys, but for all potential users out there,
some of whom we haven't even thought of yet.

   Actually, I think what you mean by "deeper level" is "granite versus
felsic granite" or "contact versus inferred contact."

(c) what role do regional geologic differences and geologic-mapping
traditions play in the development of science-language standards?

   Regional differences should be addressed, but they should not inhibit
development of a standard.  If you take three maps (for instance, from New
England, the Coastal Plain, and the Rockies), you will see that there are
common rock and age conventions and symbolization.  Whether you are the
geologist compiling the field sheet, or the cartographer producing the final
product, you will see that geologic-mapping traditions are based on
standards, so they should play a strong role in whatever we come up with. 
In order to get people to buy into this idea of common usage, we need to
honor those traditions and incorporate them into whatever we come up with.

(d) should there be one single terminology standard, or multiple standards
linked by translators and equivalency tables?

   For simplicity, start with one single terminology.  Let's see if the need
for multiple standards arises.

(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?

   I think the "anticipated queries" (20 questions) exercise considers all
but perhaps the local-level needs, where you may have non-technical users
trying to make everyday decisions about their community infrastructure,
their industries, or their environment.  But if we work from the National
level down and consider the non-technical user at the same time, then a
single structure should work.

   Some thoughts about local-level users--they sometimes are the ones least
familiar with geologic sciences and the government agencies that produce
scientific information, but we believe that they need our information to
make informed decisions.  They are also taxpayers and "pay our salaries." 
If we create something they can't use and understand easily, then we lose
credibility with them.  However, I have to admit that in my own work,
although I think about this issue all the time as I edit reports, I can't
always put the philosophy into practice.

(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

   Hybrid technical and nontechnical would cover most needs.  As with (d)
above, start with one language and see if there is a need.

(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)

   See 20-questions exercise results.

(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)

   See 20-questions exercise results

(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?

   I'm not sure we should incorporate any other discipline's language just
yet.  Because geology is going to be the common thread in other related
disciplines, it would be preferable to develop just a geologic language
standard first, and add to it later if needed.  I think we need to establish
just how much and what type of information members of other disciplines

(j) What kinds of feature-level locational-accuracy issues should be
addressed by our science language, as these bear on agency accountability?

   The Draft Cartographic and Digital Standard for Geologic Map Information
(USGS Open-File Report 95-525, part 1.0.1) proposes to adopt a location
accuracy standard for geologic features.  That would be a good jumping-off
point for addressing the language issue.

(k) What kinds of feature-level scientific-confidence issues should be
addressed by our science language, as these bear on agency accountability?

   I'm not sure how to answer this in terms of language in a database;
however, when writing metadata for a map, there is a required(?) field for
confidence level.  For example,

         This geologic map is not meant to be used or displayed at
         any scale other than 1:250,000.

   Also, in map explanations, there are some commonly used conventions to
convey accuracy, such as:

        "Contact--Accuracy indicated by outcrop locations and distribution
and concentration of structural symbols"

   Perhaps we can use such analogies to help formulate an answer.

(l) What kinds of feature-level data-origination issues should be addressed
in our science language, as these bear on agency accountability?

   All data sources should be attributed to either original mapping, or to
previous work by others.  But should this done in the map database, or is it
done in the metadata, or somewhere else?  We should determine this before
treating it as a language issue.

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