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IUCr 1996 Report - ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

Current information on CODATA activities and strategy can be found at http://www.cisti.nrc.ca/codata/welcome.html. CODATA works on an interdisciplinary basis to improve the quality, reliability, processing, management and accessibility of data of importance to science and technology.

From 29 September to 3 October 1996, the 15th International CODATA Conference, Scientific Data for Global Prosperity and Better Human Life was held in Tsukuba, Japan and was followed on 4 and 5 October by the General Assembly of CODATA. Amongst the associated satellite meetings, one on Electronic Publishing was co-organized by J. R. Rodgers, the former IUCr Representative to CODATA. The conference covered a very wide range of data and information activities related to science and technology and was attended by some 280 participants from 31 countries. The current CODATA President is J.-E. Dubois (France). The 16th CODATA conference and 21st General Assembly will take place in New Delhi, India, 22-28 November 1998.

CODATA is implementing a Long Range Planning Program. Included in this plan are:

(i) Studies of Abstract Data Structure: a task group on visualization is working towards this goal;

(ii) Collaboration with ICSU Unions on Database Efforts: this primarily concerns a task group on standardized terminology for biological data banks with an eye to cataloging the known species on the earth;

(iii) Access to Data; and

(iv) Outreach Activities, which aims at the expansion of educational and tutorial activities to permit the scientific community to take advantage of modern information technology.

Of the CODATA Task Groups and Commissions for 1997-1998, the following have implications for the activities of crystallographers: (1) Biological Macromolecules with emphasis on the proteome project. (2) Distributed Data Depository. This project, initially intended to be a large centralized depository (of thermophysical data banks), evolved into a set of distributed data banks due to the growth of the Internet. (3) Commission on Access to Data, which plans small meetings looking at access issues from the point of view of the traditions and constraints in a scientific discipline. (4) A Task Group to make CODATA more visible and known by use of the World Wide Web and to act as a source of information on scientific and technical data (apparently ICSTI is doing the same thing). (5) Data/Information Technology and Visualization Task Group, which seems to have elements in common with the ICSTI graphics project.

A current theme in CODATA documents is the assessment of data quality and the costs that this incurs.

In June 1977, Chapter 1 (Crystallography) of the CODATA Directory of Data Sources for Science and Technology, edited by D. G. Watson, was published. This directory contains information arranged in sections: International Data Projects, National Data Projects, Data Centers, Major Publication Series, Other Data Sources and Bibliographies. Much of the information is now out of date and the CODATA Executive Director has suggested that it is time to consider an update to this publication. This CODATA Directory on Crystallographic Data seems to be little known to crystallographers. In 1987, the former IUCr Commission on Crystallographic Data published an excellent soft-cover book Crystallographic Databases, which covered the field in detail from the user's point of view giving many examples. In August 1995, the NIST Workshop on Crystallographic Databases was held in Gaithersburg, USA, and the proceedings have been published in J. Res. Natl Inst. Stand. Technol. (1996), 101(3), 205-381. Necessarily, the impact of modern information technology, especially the Internet and the World Wide Web, occupied a high place in the considerations of the participants at the NIST Workshop. It would seem that these two publications complete and bring up to date the 1977 CODATA publication in a form which is more accessible to crystallographers. Further, the advent of the World Wide Web with its global accessibility and its inherent ease of revision makes printed documents of the type of the CODATA Directory less attractive as a means of publication for this type of compendium. Although the CODATA Bulletin itself has now been discontinued, CODATA output is currently in the form of a book series in collaboration with Springer Verlag, collections of conference abstracts and a Newsletter.

Of the CODATA activities that impact on the interests and current concerns of the IUCr, the Distributed Data Depository and the question of interconnections (by Internet) of distributed and formerly independent databases is of great relevance.

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Updated 14th February 1997

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