The GCW Data Portal, or catalogue, is dedicated to data management and to providing specific information on datasets. The data management component is an enabling service in the sense that it identifies relevant datasets and their locations and provides an interface that can be used in the evaluation of GCW data and products. The portal will support simple visualization (generation of maps or diagrams like time series) and transformations such as reformatting and re-projection of data, if the data are served through the appropriate interfaces and forms.
GCW data management shall integrate datasets and provides access to data and information on past, present, and future cryospheric conditions. To achieve these results, the data portal must be attached to real-time and near-real-time data management systems and to data archives. While interfacing with existing data management systems, GCW respects partnership and ownership. GCW itself will rely on distributed data management technologies and partners (e.g. CryoNet stations) to establish the GCW catalogue. This process will create a unified interface to datasets in an otherwise fragmented terrain. No information on data (discovery metadata) will be kept in the GCW catalogue without an agreement with the data producer/data owner.
GCW data management follows a metadata driven approach in which datasets are described through discovery metadata exchanged between contributing data centers and the GCW catalogue.
In the GCW context, at least two types of metadata are relevant. One is “discovery” or index metadata identifying general characteristics of a dataset, including what was measured where and when, potential restrictions on data use, data custodians, and the available interfaces to the actual dataset. This is the type of metadata that will be exchanged within GCW. Another type, “use” metadata, is required when a user has accessed a dataset and begins to use it. Such metadata typically include a specification of variables, units used, how missing values are encoded, and other details on the contents of the dataset. The third type of metadata is interpretation or context metadata for observational data (e.g., data quality, instrumentation used, processing performed, and environmental conditions), which allow data to be interpreted in context. The ingested discovery metadata will be harvested from project specific, national, and international catalogues. In addition to harvesting existing catalogues, the data management part of the GCW portal will facilitate forms for submission of metadata on datasets not handled by existing catalogues. Successful exchange of metadata will involve some degree of adaptation of systems on either side. However, in order to establish a sustainable system, the number of standards the GCW portal has to support cannot be too many. Furthermore, the actual data also has to be standardised to support integration of data among data providers. Concerning the search model used for the GCW portal, search for scientific parameters is currently based on the GCMD Science Keywords. All datasets must be documented in the English language.