Growing the Forest: The Integration of International Data into a Global-Scale GIS, Decision Support System
IHS Energy, Houston, TX
The ability to make sound decisions depends on the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of supporting data and derived information. “Quality” and “Standards” are important concepts that mean different things to different people. Quality is commonly defined as the extent to which the product or service meets the needs and expectations of its users. Thus in constructing a global decision-support system to represent the broad interests of the industry spectrum, those who build decision-support systems need to understand what information is needed, how to format that information, and how to qualify that information to ensure that it serves users in an appropriate way. This is done through the association of metadata; information about information, such as source, scale, level of error, and vintage. Metadata enables users to choose which data will be suitable for their needs, and which may be suitable only for other users.
The data model used to organize information must be flexible to meet the needs of all users. Some will require information relevant at regional scales, with a higher tolerance for spatial uncertainty, whereas others will require more certainty in spatial or other attributes. The data analyst is faced with the dilemma of which information to enter, and how to qualify it to best meet the needs of the industry spectrum. Personal bias, based on the analyst's experience, plays a role in deciding which information has “value” and which, if any, information should be omitted. It is suggested that the analyst avoid inserting bias into information integration, but instead focus on inserting metadata to enable information to be sorted according to its natural categories. In doing so, the analyst maximizes the growth of the information system, and supports the decisions of the broadest industry audience.