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Abstract -- Issues in the Transborder Flow of Scientific Data Policy Track
P7: Transborder Information Flows

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Issues in the Transborder Flow of Scientific Data

Uhlir, Paul F. ( puhlir@nas.edu)
Alexander, Shelton S. ( shel@geosc.psu.edu)

Abstract

The Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) is an interdisciplinary committee organized under the International Council of Scientific Unions, a nongovernmental organization created in 1931 to promote international scientific activity in the different branches of science and their applications to humanity. According to CODATA's charter, the committee is concerned with all types of quantitative data resulting from experimental measurements or observations in the physical, biological, geological, and astronomical sciences. CODATA's general objectives include the improvement of the quality and accessibility of data, as well as the methods by which data are acquired, managed, and analyzed; the facilitation of international cooperation among those collecting, organizing, and using data; and the promotion of an increased awareness in the scientific and technical community of the importance of these activities.

The U.S. National Committee for CODATA (USNC/CODATA) is a standing committee organized under the National Research Council. The Council is the principal advisory body to the federal government on scientific and technical matters. The USNC/CODATA serves as a bridge between the scientific and technical community in the United States and the international CODATA regarding data issues in the natural sciences.

Consistent with the objectives of CODATA and the role of the National Research Council, the USNC/CODATA has established a subcommittee to undertake an interdisciplinary study of international access to scientific data. The primary focus is on data in electronic forms, a topic of increasing complexity and importance in scientific research and international collaboration. The study is outlining the needs for data in the major research areas of current scientific interest that fall within the scope of CODATA. The legal, economic, policy, and technical factors and trends that have an influence--whether favorable or negative--on access to data by the scientific community are being characterized. The study also is identifying and analyzing the barriers to international access to scientific data that may be expected to have the most adverse impact in discipline areas within CODATA's purview, with emphasis on factors common to all the disciplines. Finally, the study will recommend to the federal government approaches that could help overcome barriers to access in the international context. The study's sponsoring agencies include the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Library of Medicine, and the Defense Technical Information Center.

The paper will review the background of the study, its methodology, and some preliminary findings, and will solicit input on key issues from INET'95 conference participants.