Report on CODATA Activities for 2008
The Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) was created in 1966 as an interdisciplinary Scientific Committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Its seat is located in Paris, 5, rue Auguste Vacquerie at the ICSU headquarters where their secretariat is housed. We may note that it is also the legal seat for IUPAB.
The aim of CODATA is to improve the “quality, reliability, management and accessibility of data of importance to all fields of science and technology”. Consequently CODATA is concerned by a large spread of disciplines as, but not limited, physical sciences, biology, geology, astronomy, engineering, environmental science, ecology. CODATA is involved in several international co-operations through their task groups. I will site some of them: Polar Year Data Policy and Management, eGY Earth and Space Science data Interoperability, Biodiversity, Observation and Specimen Records, Preservation of and Access to Scientific and Technical Data in Developing Countries. Other task groups are of a more traditional type such as the task group on Fundamental Physical Constants, which makes the reputation of CODATA or some that are related to geologic sciences or energy resources like the task Group of Data on Natural Gas Hydrates. Altogether the last CODATA General Assembly held in Kiev, October 9-10, 2008, has approved the funding of ten task groups and two working groups (one of the two is the working group on UV/Vis+ Spectra Data Base of interest to IUPAB).
The membership of CODATA is composed of National members (25), International Scientific Unions (16, including IUPAB), Co-opted organizations (4) and 20 supporting Organizations including the Protein Data Bank or the Japan International Protein Information Database (PIR). Only the National members pay annual dues with a structure similar to the ICSU dues that are based on the Gross National Product (GNP). The other sources of revenues of CODATA are the grants from different organizations, ICSU, UNESCO for instance (about 50% of the amount received as membership dues). CODATA has a scientific publication, Data Science Journal since three years and an older one, Newsletter, but both depends financially from the CODATA funding and are not beneficial. The same for the International CODATA Conferences held every two years, the last one of which was in Kiev, October 5-8, 2008.
In its Strategic Plan for 2006-20012, three major initiatives have been retained. First, a Global Information Commons for Science Initiative (GICSI) already launched by CODATA following the World Summits for the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, in 2003 and 2005. The goal is to promote full and equitable access to scientific data in the world. Second, a Scientific Data across the Digital Divide (SD3 ) Program aims at “making critical scientific data and associate tools and resources related to sustainable development widely accessible in developing countries” (CODATA Strategic Plan). For that purpose CODATA is working with the International Polar Year (IPY) or the electronic Geophysical Year (eGY) through its task forces. The third initiative is to strengthen the links between data mining, data integration, artificial intelligence and other techniques under the heading of Advanced Data Methods and Information technologies for Research and Education (ADMIRE). Naturally this strategic plan is related to the final report of ICSU on June 2008 from the ad hoc Strategic Committee on Information and Data.
If the share devoted to biology itself and biophysics seems limited in regards to the diversity of stakeholders, IUPAB has a great interest to be represented like other Union members of CODATA, if it is only in the definition of the task groups that are renewed every two years or in the elaboration of the CODATA Conference program.
Jean Garnier, October 2008.