Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 2000

Ohioview: The Leadership Role of Libraries in Science and Technology Partnerships

John Millard
Information Services Librarian
Geographic Information Systems
Miami University Libraries
Oxford, OH


The Ohioview Research Consortium was formed to improve distribution and access to data acquired from U.S. Government civilian satellites. Ohioview is a group of Ohio universities, the U.S. Geological Survey's EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls SD, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland OH, The Ohio Library and Information Network, and NREN. What is unique about this consortium is that the university library component has been called upon to play a strong leadership role.

The Ohioview Consortium's primary aim was to address the high cost of civilian satellite data produced by the U.S. government. Begun as a partnership between the Miami University Libraries and the Department of Geology, the consortium quickly grew to include Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, University of Cincinnati, Kent State University, and The Ohio State University. Organized around a Memorandum of Agreement between Miami University and the original five member universities, the consortium's mission is to promote the low-cost distribution of U.S. government civilian satellite data for public use. Ohioview leverages existing state and federal resources to achieve the following goals:

  1. Create a prototype of a national public access system for geospatial data from the U.S. Government.
  2. Promote the use of satellite and geospatial data in education.
  3. Facilitate the use of satellite data to monitor a wide variety of environmental issues, such as flood risk, crop health, urban sprawl, and loss of wetlands.
  4. Facilitate cooperation between education and state and local governments in remote sensing and digital mapping through cost sharing.
  5. Facilitate research and development in the applications of satellite data.
  6. Establish "virtual" centers for satellite and geospatial data synthesis and dissemination.
  7. Establish a high-speed network to provide satellite data to the public, educators, scientists, and community leaders in Ohio and the nation.


Satellite data can be used in a wide variety of applications including agriculture, climate change, urban planning, forestry, geology, wetland management, disaster planning and assessment, and others. Satellites have the added advantage of being able to monitor continuously the earth's surface, making possible the study of changes due to natural or man-made forces.

To date, the Ohioview project has concentrated most heavily on data collected from the Landsat satellites. Landsat was specifically designed to provide ongoing, continuous and repetitive coverage of the earth's surface. The first Landsat was launched in July 1972. Landsats 2, 3, 4, and 5 were launched in 1975, 1978, 1982, and 1984, respectively. Landsat 6 was launched but failed to achieve orbit. Landsat 7 was successfully launched in April 1999.

The instrument on Landsat 7, the Enhanced Thematic Mapper + (ETM+) will replicate the coverage of earlier Landsats by collecting information in visible, near-infrared, short-wave, and thermal infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum with a ground resolution of 30m. The ETM+ sensor also provides a Thermal Infrared channel at 60m resolution and a panchromatic band at 15m resolution (Sheffner 1999).

As valuable as the Landsat archive is, there are significant barriers preventing more widespread use of the data. Some of the factors that hinder use of satellite data were identified at the EOSDIS Potential User Group Development Effort Conference in 1995.

"At the University and College undergraduate and graduate levels the number of students that will benefit from the availability of EOS and EOS-related data and information is immense. Success in reaching this audience, however, is mainly dependent on ease of access, organization of the datasets, and cost" (Butler 1995).

The cost factor is a significant one to colleges and universities, especially when considering the high costs of commercialized Landsat data. For example, Landsat scenes generally cost over $4000 per scene. To place that in a geographic perspective, the state of Ohio spans 10 scenes for a total of about $40,000. Landsat repeats its coverage of the earth every 16 days or about 22 times a year. Full coverage of just the state of Ohio would result in a data cost of nearly $1,000,000 per year. Of perhaps even greater concern to the library community was the proprietary nature of the data. License agreements imposed by commercial satellite data vendors prohibited the sharing of data by end users.

In 1992, the U.S. Congress recognized that the "cost of Landsat data had impeded the use of such data" and passed the Land Remote Sensing and Policy Act of 1992 (PL 102-555). The act provided funds for the launch of the non-proprietary Landsat 7 satellite and changed the way that satellite data was distributed. In addition, it mandated that unenhanced data from Landsats 4-5 be made available to U.S. Government agencies and certain researchers at the "Cost of Fulfilling User Requests". Landsat 7 data would be provided to all users at the cost of fulfilling requests.

Challenges and Solutions

The greatest challenges facing the newly organized Ohioview group were the high cost of Landsat 4 and 5 data and the prohibition on data sharing. The solution was to obtain U.S. Government and Affiliated Users (USGAU) status. USGAU status allows members of the consortium to purchase data under the terms mandated in the 1992 law. The primary benefits of USGAU status were to allow Ohioview members to purchase data at approximately a tenth of the original cost and to share that data with each other. The only restriction was that the data were not to be used commercially.

The next challenge was to create a national and local data distribution infrastructure. The solution here was to leverage the expertise of our state and federal partners. Each partner was able to leverage existing resources and/or acquire funding to complete a critical portion of the system.

Partners Contribution
USGS Augmented data production and distribution facilities. Provided vital test data and expertise.
NASAb Provided high speed NREN network links from USGS to Cleveland. Hosted and provided online data storage capacity.
Miami University Developed resource discovery and metadata facilities. Provided initial data server located at NASA Glenn.
OhioLINK Provided 1st year Landsat Data funding.

How Will it Work?

When Landsat 7 data is available in the fall of 1999, Ohioview will acquire complete coverage of Ohio for each of the 16-day repeat cycles if the data meet Ohioview specified data quality standards. If a dataset meets these standards, the USGS will automatically produce a product processed to specifications developed by Ohioview. The processed dataset will be delivered electronically over a high-speed network link provided by the NASA Research and Education Network (NREN) to a data server maintained at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The data will be archived there and made available for download. Once new data are received, a metadata record will be entered into a searchable metadata catalog maintained by the Miami University Libraries. The metadata server will provide the primary resource discovery and access method for Ohioview data.

The Role of Libraries

As the founding member of the organization, the Miami University Libraries have been called upon to play an extensive leadership and overall project management role in the Ohioview consortium. The role of the Libraries include:

Maintaining the Ohioview USGAU Agreement
The Libraries are the primary maintenance agency for the Ohioview USGAU agreement. In the two years since the agreement was signed, four additional members have been added to the agreement.

Coordinating the Virtual Organization
Ohioview is a classic example of the virtual organization. Members and partners in the project are distributed throughout Ohio and in two other states. Maintaining communication among them requires some significant technological help. We began by registering the ohioview.org domain and creating several email discussion lists with web accessible archives. We then designed and implemented a comprehensive informational website (http://www.ohioview.org/). In addition, the libraries were responsible for coordinating and arranging quarterly face-to-face meetings at locations in both Ohio and South Dakota.

Providing a central point of contact
As part of the Ohioview USGAU arrangement, Ohioview agreed to place data orders through a central person or institution. The Miami University Libraries have taken on this responsibility and are working with the USGS to further define the data order and delivery process. To accomplish this, the Libraries also coordinate the development and maintenance of the Ohioview data requirements and specifications.

Providing an interdisciplinary perspective
Most of the individual members of Ohioview come from fields like geology, geography, urban planning, etc. All of these fields have traditionally looked to remotely sensed data to answer their research questions. However, Libraries have interdisciplinary ties to fields that have not traditionally realized the potential that satellite data holds for them.


Libraries have a valid and important role to play in the leadership of science and technology partnerships. The advantages are great for the consortium as well. Libraries bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table including:

As in any partnership, the benefits are never one-sided. Libraries have a great deal to gain by taking on leadership roles in science and technology projects. Some example can include:


Butler, E. & Estes, J.E. 1995. Proceedings of the EOSDIS Potential User Group Development Effort Conference [Online]. Available: {http://keystone.geog.ucsb.edu/eosdis/index.html} [February 4, 2000].

"The Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992" (PL 102-555), United States Statutes at Large 106, pp. 4163-4180.

Quirk, B. 1998. Gateway to the Future: The Ohioview Pilot. In: Proceedings of GIS/LIS '98, Fort Worth, TX, USA (Bethesda, MD: American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing) [CD-ROM]

Sheffner, E. 1999. Landsat Program. [Online]. Available: http://geo.arc.nasa.gov/sge/landsat/landsat.html [May 7, 1999].


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