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ICSTI/CODATA Winter meetings

  • To: epc@iucr.org
  • Subject: ICSTI/CODATA Winter meetings
  • From: Brian McMahon <bm@iucr.org>
  • Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2009 10:20:52 +0000
I have just returned from a Paris weekend in the company of ICSTI and
CODATA. I have put together the remarks below as a possible front-page
leader article for the IUCr web site. The idea is to provide the wider
crystallographic readership with some information about these bodies, and
the reasons for the IUCr's interest in them. While this naturally focuses
on the data/publishing area, I would hope that it could be used as a model
for other brief notes from IUCr representatives on other bodies to explain
to the  community a little more about our interactions with those bodies
(ICSU itself, ICTNS, COSPAR etc.)

Your comments are welcome on this piece - whether it's sufficiently
informative, sets the right tone, etc. - before I actually submit it to the
Executive Secretary, who is acting as the front-page editor. It currently
runs to nearly 500 words, so suggestions for shortening it are particularly

Best wishes

Relationships with ICSU bodies

The IUCr is a member of ICSU, the International Council for
Science. The acronym ICSU represents its original role as the
International Council of Scientific Unions, but in 1998 the official
name was changed and its membership broadened to allow it to take on a
more strategic role in representing science at the international policy

Over time, ICSU has generated a number of more specialised bodies. Two
of these are of particular relevance to the IUCr's interests in
publication and data management: ICSTI, the International Council for
Scientific and Technical Information; and CODATA, the Committee for
Data. In 2004, ICSU conducted an extensive strategic review programme
that included three Priority Area Assessments (PAA). One of these,
addressing scientific information, resulted in a comprehensive account
of the major challenges for science in the effective use and curation
of digital information, which nowadays includes published literature
and primary research data. The PAA outlined strategic issues within
this area, and identified roles in which CODATA and ICSTI could be
effective agents for change.

It also recommended closer cooperation between these two organizations
on matters of common or overlapping interest. In response to the PAA,
both ICSTI and CODATA have produced Strategic Plans that take note of
ICSU's strategic vision, and are emerging from the review process with
a reinvigorated sense of purpose.

Over the course of the end February/beginning March weekend, the
Executive bodies of both ICSTI and CODATA met at ICSU headquarters in
Paris to develop their individual activities, but also, for the first
time, to meet together in social and formal sessions to explore active
routes to collaboration. Among the weekend activities was a workshop
establishing a consortium of major scientific libraries to act as
registration agencies for unique identifiers for data sets, and to
improve the curation and management of scientific data in the library
sector. Among the topics discussed at the workshop was the question
of citing data sets, and specifically of citing particular views or
subsets of the data. The IUCr was able to contribute to this discussion
on account of its experiences in electronic publishing.

The IUCr has active representation on both CODATA and ICSTI. On this
occasion, I was able to represent the IUCr on the ICSTI Executive
Board as alternate for John Helliwell, former Editor-in-Chief of IUCr
journals. As the usual IUCr delegate to CODATA, I found it an
excellent opportunity to renew or make new relationships with members
of both bodies.

The IUCr commends this active collaboration, which will allow the
joint energies of ICSTI and CODATA to be focussed on some of the many
difficult problems that they face in common, and can only help to
improve the practice of international and interdisciplinary scientific
information activities.

Brian McMahon
IUCr Representative to CODATA
4 March 2009
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