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Report on CODATA General Assembly 2004

To members of the Electronic Publishing and Database Committees.

Herewith Part 2 of my report on the recent CODATA meeting in
Berlin. I'm taking the liberty of attaching also the ICSU PAA and our
response to it, as referenced in the report. It seems to me that while
individual CODATA members have been very active over the past few years in
many ways, the governance of CODATA hasn't kept pace with the developing
issues in data science and data management. This may well now change as
the Executive changes, and as younger and more active Union representatives
bring forward their own agendas (the IUCr, IAU, IUPsyS and IUPAC members
were all active during this past General Assembly).

I welcome your input and suggestions for carrying forward this 
rejuvenation of CODATA.

Brian McMahon                                       tel: +44 1244 342878
Research and Development Officer                    fax: +44 1244 314888
International Union of Crystallography            e-mail:  bm@iucr.org
5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England                   bm@iucr.ac.uk

24th CODATA General Assembly, Berlin, Germany, November 11-12 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 Board, 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
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.

For your information, the draft ICSU PAA report and the CODATA draft
response are attached to this note. As internal drafts, they should not be
circulated to the public. The final version of the ICSU PAA is expected to
be posted on the ICSU web site before the end of 2004.

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 Mowakowski (Poland)
                        Michel Sabourin (Canada)
                        Mikhail Zgurovsky (Ukraine)

Georgia and Ireland were welcomed as new National Members to the
CODATA family.

Brian McMahon, IUCr Representative
26 November 2004



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