World Data System for global scientific community
9 May 2008
A panel chaired by Professor Ray Harris (UCL Geography), Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, has put forward plans for a World Data System to benefit the global scientific community.
The panel, made up of scientists and data experts from all over the world, submitted a number of recommendations in its final report to the International Council for Science (ICSU) on how to co-ordinate and improve access to scientific data and information.
The panel, entitled the Strategic Committee on Information and Data (SCID), was established in light of the rapidly changing nature and use of scientific data and information over the last decade, mainly due to the rapid evolution of computational capability and connectivity. The International Council for Science felt it necessary to review existing systems in order to facilitate scientists' current and future requirements for better access to and distribution of data internationally.
There are currently 50 World Data Centres (WDCs) and 12 Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical Data Analysis Services (FAGS) around the world, and the SCID took evidence and advice from these centres and other relevant bodies in considering how best to implement ICSU's goal to 'facilitate a new, coordinated global approach to scientific data and information for research, education and informed decision-making.'
The SCID report recommends that the ICSU assert a much-needed strategic leadership role on behalf of the global scientific community in relation to the policies, management and stewardship of scientific data and information. It also states that a new World Data System be created (as an ICSU interdisciplinary body), incorporating the existing centres of the WDCs and FAGS as well as other 'state of the art' data centres and services.
Professor Harris said: "As the quantity and diversity of data expands, the challenges in assuring the quality, accessibility and long-term preservation of this precious resource are amplified and brought into sharp relief. Once implemented, I am confident that our recommendations will benefit the growing involvement of scientists in international research projects and increased scientific and policy interest in global scale and comparative research activities. The creation of a new World Data System, combined with leadership from ICSU, will provide better access to data and information for scientists, and better science as a result."
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Image: The ICSU Strategic Committee on Information and Data at its second meeting held at the Sorbonne, Paris, November 2007. Professor Ray Harris is seated second from the left.