International Council of Scientific Unions World Data Center

views updated

International council of scientific unions world data center

The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) is a non-governmental organization, founded in 1931, to bring together natural scientists in international scientific endeavor. It comprises multi-disciplinary national scientific members (scientific research councils or science academies) and international, single-discipline scientific unions to provide a wide spectrum of scientific expertise enabling members to address major international, interdisciplinary issues which none could handle alone.

In 1952, the ICSU proposed a comprehensive series of global geophysical activities to span the period July 1957 to December 1958. The International Geophysical Year (IGY), as it was called, was modeled on the International Polar Years of 188283 and 193233, and was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various phenomena in Geophysics. A special committee, CSAGI (Comité Spécial de l'Année Géophysique Internationale), was formed to act as the governing body for all IGY activities. Among them, CSAGI established a World Data Center (WDC) system to serve the IGY, and developed data management plans for each IGY's scientific discipline. The data specifications were published in a series of Guides to Data Exchange, originally issued in 1957, and consecutively updated. Data sets were prepared in machine-readable form, which at that time meant punched cards and punched tape. Because of its success, the WDC system was declared permanent at the 22nd General Assembly of ICSU (Beijing, 1988). Since 1999, WDCs are referenced by the type of center rather that by the country operating the center, as for example the World Data Center for Marine Environmental Studies (WDC-MARE at Bremen University, Germany). All centers now have computer facilities and most use electronic networks to meet requests, exchange describing meta-information, and transfer data.

The basic principles and responsibilities include that World Data Centers are operated by national organizations for the benefit of the international scientific community. The resources required to operate WDCs are the responsibility of the host country or institution, which is expected to provide these resources on a long-term basis. If for any reason a WDC is closed, the data holdings shall be transferred to another center. WDCs receive data from individual scientists, projects, institutions, and local and national data centers. Among others, the mechanisms for data acquisition include the WDC Panel's "data rescue" program, which involves all parts of the WDC system and has two main aspects: (1) safeguarding older data sets that may be at risk of loss or deterioration; (2) digitizing old data sets to enable modern techniques to be used for their analysis. WDCs exchange data among themselves, as mutually agreed and whenever possible without charge, to facilitate data availability, to provide back-up copies, and to aid the preparation of higher order data products. They compile specialized data sets for small-scale, regional and global research and combine data from various sources to derive data products, such as indices of solar activity.

WDCs will provide data to scientists in any country free of charge, on an exchange basis or at a cost not to exceed the cost of copying and sending the requested data. Data sets are made available online through the World Wide Web or on media as CD-ROM, enabling users to search large data collections and transfer them to their home laboratory.

Data may be subject to privileged use by their principal investigators, for a period to be agreed beforehand, and not to surpass two years from the date of acquisition by the WDC. Since unpublished data are even more sensitive than published data, the WDC ensures that data be not accessed until they are formally placed in the public domain. In any case, data policy requires the acknowledgement of the original data sources in order to protect the principal investigator.

See also Scientific data management in Earth Sciences

About this article

International Council of Scientific Unions World Data Center

Updated About content Print Article


International Council of Scientific Unions World Data Center