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IUCr 1994 Report - ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

CODATA is an interdisciplinary Scientific Committee of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) which seeks to improve the quality, reliability, management, accessibility and intelligent exploitation of data of importance to all fields of science and industry.


The current membership of CODATA includes 19 National Members, 16 Scientific Unions, 5 Co-opted Members and 27 Supporting Organizations.

Organizational matters

Regular Meetings of the Executive Committee and the Officers were held along with the biennial General Assembly. As one means of keeping its vision clear and current, CODATA convened a two-day long-term planning session in conjunction with its General Assembly. All aspects of its activities, including its structure and mandate, were scrutinized. The recommendations of the report being prepared will help the Executive Committee chart a path for CODATA for the next five years

Activities undertaken during 1994

Scientific Meetings. The highlight of the year was the 14th International Scientific Conference held in Chambry, France, 18-22 September. Attended by 341 scientists and engineers representing 32 countries, the Conference was a scientific success. In March, the Task Group on Survey of Data Sources in Asian-Oceanic Countries convened a two-day Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan, in conjunction with their regular Task Group Meeting. Approximately 80 scientists from the region (Australia, China, Taipei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan and the Philippines) attended this very vibrant Meeting. CODATA was a co-sponsor of the Workshop on the Problems of Technological Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region organized by the Asia Society for Advanced Materials (APSAM) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 25-30 September 1994. Five other Task Group Meetings were held and the Commission on Standardized Terminology for Access to Biological Data organized a special one-day session during the International Conference.

Activities involving developing countries. CODATA carried on the distribution, free of charge, of copies of the CODATA Referral Database to developing countries. Scientists from any country, depending on their interests and expertise of course, are welcome on CODATA Task Groups or Commissions; currently six Task Groups have members from developing countries. The CODATA Task Group on Data Sources in Asian-Oceanic Countries, especially, continued to provide a dynamic forum for such countries to participate in data activities.


Database Developments in Asian-Oceanic Countries, edited by Yaruo Hu and Edgar F. Westrum Jr.

New Data Challenges in Our Information Age (Proceedings of the Thirteenth International CODATA Conference, Beijing, China, 19-22 October 1992), edited by P. S. Glaeser and M. T. L. Millward.

Data Sources in Asian-Oceanic Countries (Proceedings of the CODATA Task Group on Data Sources in Asian-Oceanic Countries, Taipei, China, March 1994), edited by J.-L. Wu, Y. Hu and E. F. Westrum.

CODATA Newsletter, Nos. 66-69 (4 issues; distribution of 6000 copies each).

Electronic publication.

CODATA Referral Database (Produced by the CODATA Task Group on a Referral Database), 1400 computer-searchable sources of scientific and technical data.

Special projects.

At the request of ICSU that CODATA should investigate the issue of data exchange more systematically with a view, potentially, of issuing a formal statement, CODATA has formed a Working Group on Data Access. Their mandate is to examine problems, policies and possible solutions to the issue of international access and exchange of data for scientific research. To keep the work focused, it is proposed initially to concentrate on the problems associated with global change research before extending its studies.

New areas of interest

. One of the new Task Groups approved at the General Assembly has taken the initiative to support the development of a master inventory of the world's plants. This massive undertaking, which will involve the collaboration of relevant biological Unions, will ultimately provide a checklist against which species diversity, genetic resources and pharmaceutical materials can be assessed.

The new Working Group on Electronic Information Transfer (chaired by the IUCr delegate) seeks to develop means to distribute the products of CODATA-sponsored programmes to the scientific community via electronic means and to exploit the Internet in assisting the work of CODATA's Task Groups, Commissions, Secretariat and Executive Committee.

Report of use of 1994 ICSU grant and UNESCO subvention

Commission on Standardized Terminology for Access to Biological Data. The Commission worked with groups such as the Federation of Scientific Editors and the IUBS Commission on Plant Taxonomic Databases to encourage policies that will result in more uniform use of terminology and hence easier development of comprehensive taxonomic data networks. They collaborated with the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses and the International Leishmaniasis Network in developing standardized descriptors for viral characteristics and setting up pilot databases, respectively.

Task Group on Geothermodynamic Data. This Group continued its work on obtaining critical thermodynamic data for the study of problems of geological, planetary and industrial importance. One of their major contributions to the scientific community is the integration of data obtained by calorimetry, phase equilibrium studies, modeling, spectroscopy and other experimental methods into one internally consistent critically evaluated database.

Task Group on Databases for Experimental Data and Electronic Publishing (EXPERIDAT) and Working Group on Electronic Information Transfer (WGEIT). The Task Group's objective was to study practical means of exploiting current telecommunications and computer technology to effect high-quality cost-efficient production of numerical databases and electronic publishing. For practical reasons, the work of this group metamorphosed part way through 1994 to that of the WGEIT. As cited above under New areas of interest, they began to distribute the products of CODATA-sponsored programmes to the scientific community via electronic means and to exploit the Internet in facilitating the work of CODATA's Task Groups, Commissions, Secretariat and Executive Committee.

Conclusion and future plans

CODATA plans to support the work plans of its Task Groups, Commissions and Working Groups during the next biennium as it pursues its role as the ICSU body addressing the interdisciplinary issues associated with scientific and technical data. The output of the Long Range Planning Meeting will help to chart our future course.

In general, CODATA enjoyed an effective year. Its Task Groups and Commissions continued to be productive and some of the new work approved at the General Assembly is scientifically both important and interesting. Similarly to related organizations, one of CODATA's most significant challenges is that of raising adequate financial resources to respond to the many challenges and opportunities it foresees during the prevailing global economic restraint.

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