SUMMARY: A powerful software environment for research can be created by combining database management systems and commercial software for analysis and display of data. This provides a richer programming environment and more sophisticated graphical possibilities than are offered by present database systems. It provides a data storage and retrieval system that adheres to a standard syntax, SQL, and which is more robust than file-based approaches. Only recently has it become possible to combine these two kinds of software but increasingly database and scientific application software has the open architecture that is conducive to the data sharing that makes such combinations possible. New database systems also accommodate the complex types of data of interest to scientists. We have a way to link appropriate database software and scientific application software which is called the Generic Database Interface (GDI). In essence, it consists of a core set of functions, complemented by product-specific interface code which is unique to each database product and each application product. The GDI provides the mechanism for both submitting a SQL query to any supported database and also handling the data that are exchanged in satisfaction of the query. We illustrate the strength of this approach by applying it to tasks involving selection and display of ocean temperature data using the Montage database management system and the S-PLUS statistics application. The examples illustrate a few of the novel capabilities of this approach; they do not comprise a complete data processing application.