1998 presentation: Access to data and metadata distributed throughout collaborating national and international research sites is the focus of a development effort to support ecological research. The U.S. LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) Network informatics group is developing, along with national and international partners, a Network Information System (NIS). The mission of the working group is to design and develop a modular framework that builds on existing site functionality. Platform independence and the capability to present data and information in a consistent fashion, independent of their original format and location, are essential elements of design for the system to function in heterogeneous site environments. The key element, however, is the use of interdisciplinary NIS task groups composed of scientists from existing research groups, information managers, and computer scientists to design and implement various components of the system. Current prototypes serve as data sharing models for improving access to ecological data across sites.