24th CODATA General Assembly 2004

Berlin, 11-12 November 2004

As a new venture, the first session of the 24th General Assembly was held as an Open Session, in which members of other bodies within the ICSU family were invited to give short presentations of their work. Representatives from ICSTI (the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information) and INASP (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) described the work of their organisations, while there were presentations also from groups responsible for the CODATA/ICSTI portal on archiving information and the Electronic Geophysical Year.

A detailed presentation was given by Carthage Smith, Deputy Executive Director of ICSU, and Roberta Balstad Miller, Chair of the ICSU Priority Area Assessment (PAA) on Scientific Data and Information, concerning the draft PAA that had already been distributed to members of CODATA. ICSU is undergoing a major exercise in which Priority Area Assessment reviews of major areas of concern are being conducted by international panels of experts. The objective is to identify areas where effective international and interdisciplinary action can be brought to bear.

The draft report of the PAA on Scientific Data and Information is a comprehensive review of the major issues confronting the management of scientific data (and, to a lesser extent, scientific literature). It identifies a number of shortcomings in the way that the scientific community curently manages data and information, and proposes a series of measures to ensure the healthy management of data and information in the future. The emphasis is on strategic development towards a vision of effective management, preservation, access and use. It recommends that ICSU assume an international leadership role in identifying and addressing critical policy and management issues. ICSU is expected to develop a long-term strategic framework and to engage fully its daughter and affiliate organisations in working towards strategic objectives. The report analyses the role of CODATA, the ICSU body expressly charged with responsibility for the proper management of quantitative scientific data; it makes certain recommendations directly to CODATA and implicitly invites CODATA to participate in several specific policy initiatives.

At the invitation of the CODATA President, Professor Iwata, a small committee was convened to prepare a response to the ICSU PAA. The committee consisted of Krishan Lal (Executive Committee, CODATA), Ray Norris (Representative, IAU) and Brian McMahon (Representative, IUCr). The committee submitted to the General Assembly the following recommendations:

  • 1. CODATA should congratulate ICSU on a comprehensive and visionary review, and should signal its desire to play a key role in realising that vision.
CODATA should focus its strategic directions by:
  • 2. declaring its objectives clearly through a mission statement on its home page;
  • 3. developing a five-year Strategic Plan of action in support of its mission;
  • 4. establishing a technical advisory committee to help identify interdisciplinary objectives that are aligned with CODATA's strategic goals;
  • 5. commissioning new Task Groups to address strategic goals, while retaining the existing Task Group mechanism to allow independent initiatives to be introduced, endorsed and sponsored;
  • 6. investigating new routes for funding project-based and long-term activities to enable expansion in their scope and effectiveness;
  • 7. monitoring developments in intellectual property rights, providing recommendations of best practice within science, and contributing to the ICSU framework;
  • 8. identifying specific areas where the creation and maintenance of scientific data, or access to and use of the data are hampered by a shortfall in local resources and capacity (the "Digital Divide") and promoting technical and policy initiatives to address these;
  • 9. promoting the principle of full and equitable access to scientific data and information, both in its published mission statement and in its activities;
  • 10. investigating the adoption of community standards for the validation and verification of scientific data and publications to ensure the highest achievable data quality;
  • 11. participating in eScience forums, and building links to eScience groups, to help build eScience on firm data management principles.

It was also recommended that
  • 12. CODATA should engage with other members of the ICSU family in addressing specific recommendations of the PAA.
A number of specific projects were suggested as candidates for action.

In presenting this report to the General Assembly, it was emphasised that many of these recommendations reflected or were extensions of the activities already being carried out by CODATA; but the development of a mission statement and strategic plan would help to focus them and to identify priorities for action in the context of the programme of activities of ICSU and its other associated bodies.

The response was warmly received by the General Assembly, and a charge was laid upon the new Executive Body to adopt the response as the basis for strategic development, to establish a funding committee to explore ways of meeting the costs of new projects, and to circulate a first draft of the strategic plan by June 2005.

The 2004 CODATA Prize was awarded to Jean Bonnin, Professor of Solid Earth Geophysics at Institut de Physique du Globe, Louis Pasteur University, Strasbourg, France.

The Canadian National Committee had established the Sangster Award for graduate students as a specific response to the discussions in the 23rd General Assembly regarding recognition of young scientists' work. A motion was passed encouraging the National, Regional and Associate Members of CODATA to consider establishing similar awards within their own domains.

The General Assembly also passed motions supporting training exchange programmes, thanking the Founding Editor of the Data Science Journal, endorsing the Electronic Geophysical Year, and approving the CODATA/ICSTI archiving portal. There was also a motion to send letters of support to the National Members of CODATA who were experiencing difficulties within their own countries in raising the necessary CODATA membership dues.

Beyond the administrative affairs of CODATA, the main function of the General Assembly is the appointment or re-confirmation of Task Groups or Working Groups charged with furthering the objectives of CODATA. Because financial support may be provided, and because the groups act as a visible face of CODATA activities, the groups report to and are elected by the General Assembly. The Task Groups approved by the 24th General Assembly for the period 2004-2006 are as follows (those marked with an asterisk are continuations of existing Task Groups):

  • Fundamental Constants *
  • Preservation and Archiving of Scientific and Technical Data *
  • Natural Gas Hydrates *
  • Biological Collection Data Access *
  • Global Species Data Networks *
  • Low-Dimensional Materials and Technologies Data Network
  • Data Sources in Asian-Oceanic Countries *
  • Anthropometric Data and Engineering
  • Virtual Laboratories in Earth, Physics and Environmental Sciences
  • Data, Information and Visualisation *
The Officers of CODATA through the next General Assembly are
President Shuichi Iwata (Japan)
Vice-Presidents Alexei Gvishiani (Russia)
  Krishan Lal (India)
Secretary General Robert Chen (USA)
Treasurer Jean-Jacques Royer (France)
Ordinary Members: 
  Helen Berman (USA)
  Jean Garnier (France)
  Guo Huadong (China)
  Takashi Kunisawa (Japan)
  Fedor Kuznetsov (Russia)
  Antoni Nowakowski (Poland)
  Michel Sabourin (Canada)
  Mikhail Zgurovsky (Ukraine)
Georgia and Ireland were welcomed as new National Members to the CODATA family.

Brian McMahon
CODATA Representative

26 November 2004