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Discovering Environmental Information Resources
The Registry of EPA Applications, Models and Data Warehouses (READ) is the authoritative source of information about EPA information resources.
Each information resource has a record in READ. Each record identifies if the information resource is an application/system or a model. The record also includes basic information about the resource such as:
- Contact information
- Organization that owns or operates it
More detailed information also is available in a READ record, such as whether the resource supports a particular Governmental statute and, in the case of an application/system, how the application/system conforms to the Enterprise Architecture (EA). Life cycle information, user types, and access information are other data that can be found in a READ record.
- Basic Information
READ is an important tool for improving EPA’s ability to manage its information resources. Having an accurate inventory of which information resources exist at EPA, which EPA Program Office or Region owns that resource, and who the contact is for the resource, is a first step in effective management.
READ takes this management a step further by collecting life cycle phase information, how the resource supports environmental statutes, and whether the resource interfaces with other EPA information resources. READ facilitates a more enterprise-wide understanding of how information resources support the EPA mission. In an effort to streamline the reporting process, READ has been integrated into the EPA's governance process. Through this integration, EPA maintains a single resource title, acronym, and other information that is common across various reporting processes.
- What is a System Inventory?
A system inventory is a one-stop resource for discovering information about the information resources owned or operated by an organization. Many organizations, from corporations to federal agencies typically have different information resources to meet various needs.
As of March 2008 the EPA has approximately 1500 records in its Registry of EPA Applications, Models and Data Warehouses (READ). There are three types of information resources in READ:
a discrete set of elements or components (e.g., software or computer programs) organized for the collection, processing, maintenance, use, sharing, dissemination, or disposition of information.
Applications/systems serve a range of functions at EPA. One application collects air emission data for air pollutants. Another system is the warehouse for data about water monitoring tests. Another tracks Freedom of Information Act requests received from the public.
As part of a federal-wide effort to improve management of information resources, EPA has established an Enterprise Architecture (EA). The EA helps tie EPA’s business and applications/systems and infrastructure back to their reason for existence - supporting the mission of the enterprise. An EA needs a comprehensive inventory of those applications/systems, which is provided by READ.
A model is a prediction tool that uses mathematical data to project experimental results. It is a small imitation of the real thing; a system of postulates, data, and inferences presented as a mathematical description of an entity or state of affairs.
Models are used at EPA to estimate the environmental fate of pollutants, their impacts on human health and the environment, and the costs and benefits of alternative policies. Frequently, these models become the basis for environmental cleanup, protection, or regulation. Models therefore underlie how the Agency chooses to address a multitude of environmental questions.
A data warehouse is a named collection of data that contains individual data units organized (formatted) in a specific way and accessed by a specific access method that is based on the data set organization. While there are no records for data sets in The Registry of EPA Applications, Models and Data Warehouses (READ) at present, EPA is looking to include information about this type of information resource in the future.
- Why is a System Inventory Needed?
The overarching Federal information management policy, OMB Circular No. A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource, requires agencies to manage Federal information throughout the information life cycle and directs agencies to provide protection for their information commensurate with the risk and potential harm resulting from its compromise.
Additionally, OMB Circular A-130 states that agencies must identify IT assets and maintain an inventory of agency information resources, and it specifically directs each agency to maintain an inventory of its respective information systems that create, collect, use, process, store, maintain, disseminate, disclose, or dispose of personally identifiable information (PII).
There are two quality goals for READ. The first is for READ to support EPA efforts to improve the quality of its information management. The second is for the data in READ to be high quality in order to meet the first goal.
READ is the only one-stop system for learning about EPA’s information resources such as systems and models. Prior to READ, there was no source for determining what systems were owned by EPA, much less what the purpose of those systems was and who the contacts were.
Accessible via the Internet, READ enables quick and timely discovery of EPA systems and models. There is a record for each system and model. Each record provides a complete picture of that resource, including the official title, acronym, description, and how it supports the EPA mission. For example, READ enables the public to learn which systems have publicly available data, and then provides direct links to that data.
Having a comprehensive picture of each information resource is necessary for EPA to improve its information management objectives. Data reported in READ is exported to other systems, thus reducing duplicative reporting. A system name and acronym reported in READ is utilized by other IT management tools, ensuring consistent identification for that system. Prior to the implementation of READ, lack of consistency and redundant data collection about IT systems was a serious information management deficiency.
EPA has introduced various steps to improve the quality of the information in READ. Quality requires many different players, each with different roles for ensuring the quality of the information in READ.
- Information Management Officer (IMO)
- System Administrator
Primary Information Resource Steward The Steward is the individual given primary responsibility for managing the information in a READ record. This is a person who has a direct understanding of the information resource and typically oversees its operations. The steward is best placed to know what technologies are used by the application/system, which Governmental statutes are supported by the application/system and how it supports the Enterprise Architecture.
Stewardship involves the creation and maintenance of quality information assets. It encompasses the entire life-cycle of the asset from its inception through its eventual replacement, retirement, and archival.
Information Management Officer (IMO) : The Information Management Officer (IMO) is a designated individual within each EPA program office and each EPA regional office. These individuals are responsible for ensuring that the program/regional office’s business needs and mission are supported by its information and information technology planning. In addition, the IMO ensures that the planning and information helps achieve EPA's strategic goals.
Within this role, each IMO has overarching responsibility for the designated program/regional office’s information resource records in READ. The IMO approves or rejects:
- The addition of new records in READ,
- Any changes in the name of the information resource record, and
- The selection of the Primary Information Resource Steward.
The IMO also is tasked with coordinating with the steward to ensure completeness and accuracy of the information resource records.
System Administrator The READ System Administrator is the individual who manages the READ system, and has edit rights to all fields in all records in READ. The System Administrator supports the IMO in the management of high-level quality data in READ.
For example, the System Administrator must review requests for new information resource records to ensure the resource name and acronym are clear and conform to basic rules. One of these rules is that the resource acronym cannot duplicate an acronym for any other resource record.
The System Administrator also works with the IMO and the steward to change fields that are editable only by the System Administrator, such as which individuals should have edit access to a READ record or the identity of the managing organization. These checks on certain fields help ensure quality of fields that are critical to the overall quality of the information in READ.