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online to provide automated access. online indexes of approved digital spatial data sets will be developed to refer prospective users either to the online location of the data or to where a copy of the distribution medium can be obtained.
Douglas D. Nebert has worked for the last 12 years on information systems development and applications of geographic information systems in the USGS,
Experiments with Volume Visualization
S. visualization has proven to be an effective tool for the display of earth science data. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has used visualization to portray flooding in the Mississippi River Basin, sewage outflow distribution in Boston Harbor, and the growth and distribution of hydrilla in the Potomac River. Volume visualization (VV) is an emerging technique in the field of scientific visualization that extends its applicability. VV is the science of generating images from volume data sets consisting of information that defines the internal attributes of a model as well as surface attributes. In VV, three-dimensional (3-D) objects are represented as collections of small cells. These cells have attributes associated with them that can be portrayed in many ways, including color coding. Images of these cells are then rendered to portray objects that convey a sense of depth or thickness or both to the viewer. Modern computer hardware and software allow rapid manipulation of these renderings for closer investigation. Object rotation, subsetting, zoom in and zoom out, and arbitrary slicing of cross sections in 3-D space to view internal structures are a few of the features that make VV a valuable visualization tool. Volume visualization has been successfully applied to earth science data. USGS computer scientists have developed techniques that allow exploration of the vertical sequence of the coal beds on the Crow Indian reservation in Montana (fig. 1). These visualizations proved valuable in identifying irregularities in the original coal models that scientists had been using. Computer scientists are also investigating the use of VV to visualize and interac
Financial Management Process Redesign
uring FY94, the Washington Administrative Service Center of U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) led a team for the Department of the Interior to identify financial procedures and financial systems areas where increased efficiency and savings could be obtained through modernization, streamlining, standardization, and reduction or elimination of unnecessary, labor-intensive, and duplicate activities. This effort, the Financial Management Best Practices Project, focused on the reinvention of accounting, payment, and reporting processes as well as on supporting automated systems functions to significantly increase customer satisfaction and reduce related costs.
Significant, tangible benefits to the customers and reductions in costs of at least 20 percent are readily achievable by this approach. Greater use of technology such as automated systems interfaces—in particular, the electronic transmission of invoices and receiving reports—would speed up payments to the public and reduce the effort associated with making the payments. Placing the capability to enter data, make adjustments, and create reports in the hands of end users would empower the end user, increase customer satisfaction with timeliness, accuracy, and ownership of the information, and reduce costs associated with duplicate data entry, reconciliations, and reports development. The Best Practices Project Team completed a thorough and accurate
benchmarking of a Federal administrative function, the methodology and framework of which can be used on a governmentwide basis and across different administrative disciplines to generate large savings through identifying broadly applicable efficiencies and meaningful performance measures.
data containing 95 rows and 59 columns. Each line of the ASCII file contained three entries: x, y, and thickness, where x and y are location coordinates and thickness is a function of the two. These surface representations can be effective as a visualization of some earth science models such as the terrain characteristics of a watershed. This image does not, however, provide the visual cues that help the user form a mental conception of a volume in space. Seeking to improve this visualization, USGS computer scientists began investigating the use of UCD, which represents geometric structures as a collection
of cells in 3-D space. With minor data restruc
turing, UCD proved to be an effective tool for portraying this data set as a volume (figs. 3, 4), which allows scientists to show detailed spatial relationships of coal beds.
Construction of UCD models varies in complexity. Small, gridded, 3-D data sets can usually be transformed into UCD by using AVS-provided modules. Public-domain modules available from the AVS International Center have also proven useful in converting data to UCD. Additionally, USGS computer scientists have developed algorithms that transform earth science data into UCD structures.
Application of VV techniques to earth science data will be an ongoing endeavor for USGS researchers. These techniques have already demonstrated their usefulness in the display and analysis of some types of geologic models. Future research will investigate the use of UCD to help model and depict flow vectors inside of aquifers. As the use of VV is expanded, it should continue to prove a valuable tool in the understanding of earth science phenomena.
is a computer scientist with the USGS.
Technology Transfer and Outreach: The
USGS at Work with Industry
Wo the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), technology transfer and out
reach historically have been accomplished by publication and widespread dissemination of scientific information. However, since the passage of the Technology Transfer Act of 1986, the USGS has been able to participate in a broader range of proprietary exchange activities, which have included individual licensing and partnership projects designed to enable private industry to address specific competitive concerns.
Under the enabling legislation, Federal agencies may develop Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA's) for scientific research or application purposes. The agreements may be between one or more Federal laboratories and one or more non-Federal parties (units of State or local governments, industrial organizations), including corporations, partnerships, and industrial development organizations; public and private foundations; or nonprofit organizations.
During FY94, the USGS negotiated six CRADA's, seven licenses, and one technology transfer interagency personnel exchange with the Department of Energy. In total, the
projects are expected to add more than a mil
lion dollars a year to USGS outreach and research efforts.
The executed CRADA's are collaborative arrangements under which the participant and the USGS jointly contribute research staff, equipment, technical information, and occasionally funds into (but not out of) the USGS to investigate issues of interest to industry. Areas of research and development within all CRADA's span the four USGS themes of resources, hazards, environment, and data gathering and information management.
CRADA has been executed with a
consortium of oil companies to evaluate the potential petroleum resources of Kazakhstan (see p. 85). Another agreement is for studies of the nucleation and growth of gas hydrates. A third CRADA is with the Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a computer model that managers of hydroelectric power installations can use to predict water availability within a river basin. This model will be used to predict summer and fall water volume available for power generation on the basis of winter and spring climatological factors and other parameters.
To reduce travel costs and enhance productivity, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is taking advantage of advances in technology, such as faster computer chips and better video signal compression techniques, that have reduced videoconferencing costs to an affordable level. The USGS evaluated emerging standards and different videoconferencing systems and for maximum flexibility selected a fully integrated video system for a test phase. Existing USGS digital transmission lines provided the necessary circuitry for videoconferencing trial conditions. The three USGS sites selected for this trial were Reston, Va., Denver, Colo., and Menlo Park, Calif., where nearly 50 percent of the USGS workforce is stationed. The results of a 6month trial period showed that videoconferencing could be an effective alternative to travel and could enhance communications among sites. Videoconferencing has shown a steady growth in use from two to three meetings a week to six to seven meetings a week since the test phase in 1990. Two more locations— Rolla, Mo., and Sioux Falls, S. Dak.-have been added to the network. Dedicated videoconferencing rooms at most sites make the equipment readily available and easy to use. Videoconferencing has changed rapidly in the last few years. New video compression techniques now permit relatively high video quality at even lower data rates. Improvements in hardware and software have brought video technology to the desktop; in the very near future, video equipment and services will be available to smaller USGS field offices. As with all emerging technologies, costs have decreased, so the technology is now affordable for a wide customer base. Just as the personal computer has improved dramatically in a short time, it is expected that improvements in videoconferencing hardware and software will continue at a rapid pace. By the late 1990's, videoconferencing is expected to be as widespread as the use of facsimile machines is today. A primary concern in acquiring new videoconferencing equipment is compatibility with existing USGS video equipment and interoperability with videoconferencing equipment throughout the Department of the Interior, other Federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. Although the vast majority of projected videoconferencing use will be within the USGS community, the ability to videoconference with organizations outside of the USGS is essential. With the recent emergence of international video standards (with which existing USGS equipment is compatible), all future procurements of videoconferencing equipment will specify that new equipment must be compatible with industry standards.
Jay O'Donnell has over 25 years of telecommunications experience and currently manages USGS voice and video telecommunications activities.
manage, and use digital geographic databases; and develop software for feature extraction and classification from image sources.
National Performance Review: Reinvention
Lab at the U.S. Geological Survey
.S. Geological Survey (USGS) information exists in many forms—maps, books, photographs, diskettes, CD-ROM's, and videotapes. Most of these products, including more than 130,000 different maps and reports, are distributed from a central facility in Denver, Colo. More than 5 million products were distributed in FY 93 to the general public, Federal and State organizations, private industry, and a network of commercial map sellers for resale to the public. Over the past several years, numerous studies have attempted to address specific problems related to information and product distribution. The current distribution system has been in place for more than 50 years; during that time, no substantive design changes have occurred. Recent studies have recognized several critical issues: • Quality customer service is not sustainable. • Computer systems do not support effective management. • The culture of the USGS places little or no value on the operation. • Processes are encumbered with real and perceived policies and procedures. • Personnel policies are not flexible enough to accommodate changing workloads. In June 1993, information and product distribution was identified as the subject for the first round of Reinvention Lab activities at the Department of the Interior as part of the National Performance Review called for by Vice President Gore. A team was chosen from several levels of employees: warehouse staff, first-line supervisors, and program managers. Using reengineering processes (beginning with a “clean plate,” identifying root causes of problems and organizational core competencies, and benchmarking the approaches used by the best in the business), the team developed a three-tiered approach that was
approved by USGS management in October 1993. The new three-tiered approach to information and product distribution recognizes that distribution is a part of a wider customer service environment. The tiers are interrelated but functionally distinct: (1) information exchange, (2) product distribution, and (3) product supply. Tier 3 activities supply products to Tier 2, which then distributes those products; Tier 1 is the information environment in which customers (assisted by USGS information specialists) identify and order the products that they need. Tiers 1 and 3 are functions that exist in many parts of the USGS, whereas Tier 2 involves activities in the warehouse at the Denver Federal Center. A core team began working to implement this design in November 1993, focusing on Tier 2. Recommendations were submitted to management in March 1994, and implementation began in May. Meanwhile, two new teams were established to address Tiers 1 and 3. These teams included representatives from USGS operating divisions, and each included a member of the core team to act as a liaison and ensure an integrated approach.
As the Tier 1 and Tier 3 teams worked on their respective issues, the core team began the implementation process. In July 1994, the Federal Financial System Inventory Subsystem—a new computerized accounting and inventory system— came online. The technological transition to this system accompanied an organizational change that merged the Branch of Distribution and the Earth Sciences Information Center at the Rocky Mountain Mapping Center into the new Branch of Information Services. The goals of this new branch were consistent with the goals of the National Performance Review, spearheaded by Vice President Gore. Implementation of Tier 2 plans have involved process streamlining, cross-functional position descriptions, personnel changes, training, further definition of implementation plan elements, and planning for the changes that will result from the branch's move to new quarters. The Tier 1 and Tier 3 teams have gathered and analyzed information concerning larger information and product supply issues. Implementation has already begun in some areas and will ultimately integrate the activities of all three tiers.