USDA Forest Service Resource Information Group

Data Steward Community of Practice (CoP)

The Data Steward Community of Practice (CoP) is comprised of data stewards from R&D and NFS Forest Service deputy areas, working primarily on finding efficiencies in inventory, monitoring, and assessment tasks. Using, business requirements from statute, regulations, and policy, data stewards have developed techniques and protocols for implementation, ensuring that data are planned, designed, collected and assessed to provide consistent, high quality datasets to populate agency databases and support agency decision-making.
In past years, the Forest Service supported an ad hoc data steward group for IM&A activities leaving the choices of how to manage these roles and responsibilities and ensuring that the tasks were completed up to the individual unit.  Opportunities now exist to move to a higher level of organization for all data stewards by creating a community of practice encompassing all levels of the agency especially the National, regional and forest levels in NFS. These opportunities are described as:

  • Charter a community of practice to address roles and responsibilities for the collection of data before datasets are entered into corporate databases. These activities are designed to follow the techniques and advice from the Data Management Body of Knowledge which is an authoritative source for data steward activities and describes differences among business data stewards for natural resource management, IT data managers, and IT data stewards.
  • Through the community of practice, establish a network of business data stewards’ groups centered around resource specialists areas of expertise (i.e., vegetation, forest management, air, range, wildlife, recreation trails, etc.) to collaborate with other data stewards in multiple staffs across the agency.
  • Through the community of practice, increase the ability of data stewards to be more efficient and effective in monitoring tasks by reviewing and revamping current monitoring techniques and protocols.

Current Status
The IM&A Data Steward CoP was chartered in 2019 by Assistant Directors in the Ecosystem Management Coordination Adaptive Management and Resource Information staff and meets quarterly to discuss current topics of interest.  The CoP charters working groups for special topics to develop more in-depth review and evaluation before presenting ideas for improvement to the entire CoP. A list of potential program of work items was created so that any CoP member can select and begin work on any topic that is of interest to them.

Charter - (.PDF - 269KB)

Briefing Paper - (.DOC - 53KB)

Data Steward Community of Practice Working Groups

  • Glossary – creation of a data steward glossary using published terms from protocol technical guides. One of the important aspects of producing useful technical documents is using language that is both precise and specific.  In many fields, technical writing that is precise and specific uses terms that are not always well understood by readers outside the technical domain of knowledge.  A glossary is an easy addition to a document that can minimize some of the confusion by providing definitions for terms used in the text.
  • Data Gaps – document describing the relationships between business requirements, Forest Service Manual (FSM) and Forest Service Handbook (FSM), data collection protocols and the data dictionary. The FSM and FSH directive system serves as a primary source for relevant laws, regulations, and policy.

Glossary- (.PDF - 781KB)

Data Gaps Document - (.DOC - 25KB)

Roles and Responsibilities for Data Stewards within Specific Topics

A defined and documented set of roles and responsibilities for data stewards is essential to the completion and full implementation of data management for the creation of well-defined statistically valid datasets. These lists of data steward tasks will then need to be vetted with CIO and correlated with the tasks that the CIO completes to determine who has accountability and responsibility for each of the tasks. Currently, no information regarding data steward tasks has been documented to determine accountability and responsibility.

Draft R&R for Data Collection Protocols by Protocol Lifecycle Phase - (.DOC - 28KB)

Draft R&R for Data Acquisition by NFS levels - (.DOC - 21KB)

Draft R&R for Data Management and Analysis by NFS levels - (.DOC - 21KB)

Draft R&R for Data Quality by NFS levels - (.DOC - 30KB)

Data Stewardship Training on AgLearn

Data stewardship roles and engagement are essential in all parts of the protocol life cycle. Data stewards, also known as business data stewards in the data management literature, are subject matter experts for natural resource areas (resource specialists) within the Forest Service and are accountable for data content and data quality. Before computer databases were used to store data, data stewards completed all activities of data management including determining which data to collect, collecting, analyzing storing and securing the data on paper data sheets. Statistics and graphs were done by hand and compared with other years and forests as appropriate.
Data stewardship training currently addresses many of the roles, responsibilities, and procedures described for the entire data lifecycle. This lifecycle includes planning of data activities, data collection protocols, data acquisition, analyses and data management, and data quality for data stewards at all levels of the agency. Three modules are now available in AgLearn for use:

  • Data Stewardship for National Leaders and Directors
  • Data Stewardship for Leadership Positions within the Forest Service
  • Data Stewardship for Data Stewards and Managers

Three modules on stewardship roles and responsibilities for data quality are also available:

  • Data Quality for Leaders and Executives
  • Data Quality for Program Managers
  • Data Quality for Technical Specialists

All Forest Service personnel involved in stewarding data (data collection, data entry, database management, or data management) are encouraged to take this training. This training also is available for data stewards of other agencies within USDA by using the search terms “data stewardship” for the data stewardship training and “data quality” for the data quality training.

Staff Contact

Sarah Hall
Lead for the Data Steward CoP
U.S. Forest Service Adaptive Management and Resource Information, Fort Collins, CO

USDA Forest Service
Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC)
1400 Independence Ave.
Mailstop: 1104
Washington, DC 20250-1104

(202) 205-0895 logo

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