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Policy and Global Affairs
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                                BISO BRDI Joint Symposium

Board on International Scientific Organizations
and the 
U.S. Committee on Data for Science and Technology
Board on Research Data and Information
National Academy of Sciences
in consultation with the
Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science
International Council for Science

Washington, DC, April 18-19, 2011


The Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO), and the U.S. Committee on Data for Science and Technology (US CODATA) under the Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI), in consultation with the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (CFRS) of the International Council for Science ICSU), organized a 2-day international symposium. The meeting was held on Monday-Tuesday, 18-19 April 2011, at the National Academy of Sciences’ Keck Center, 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC.

The symposium addressed the following questions:

1. Why is the international sharing of publicly funded scientific data important, especially for development? What are some examples of past successes and what are the types of global research and applications problems that can be addressed with more complete access to government data collections and government-funded data sources?
2. What is the status of public data access internationally, particularly in developing countries?
3. What are the principal barriers and limits to sharing public data across borders?
4. What are the rights and responsibilities of scientists and research organizations with regard to providing and getting access to publicly funded scientific data? How can international scientific organizations, government agencies, and scientists improve sharing of publicly funded data to address global challenges, particularly in less economically developed countries, more successfully?

A proceedings from the symposium will be published by the National Academies Press.


Scientific research and problem solving are increasingly dependent for successful outcomes on access to diverse sources of data generated by the public and academic research community. Global issues, such as disaster mitigation and response, international environmental management, epidemiology of infectious diseases, and various types of sustainable development concerns, require access to reliable data from many, if not all, countries. Digital networks now provide a near-universal infrastructure for sharing much of this factual information on a timely, comprehensive, and low-cost basis. There also are many compelling examples of data sharing in different areas that have yielded great benefits to the world community, although many more could be similarly facilitated.

Moreover, many OECD countries and some emerging economies already have implemented national policies and programs for public data management and access, while others are in the process of developing them. Nevertheless, a large number of developing countries do not have formal mechanisms in place.

At the same time, there are various specific barriers to the access and sharing of scientific data collected by governments or by researchers using public funding. Such obstacles include scientific and technical; institutional and management; economic and financial; legal and policy; and normative and socio-cultural aspects. Some of these barriers are possible to diminish or remove, whereas others seek to balance competing values that impose legitimate limitations on openness. Despite such challenges, however, there could be much greater value and benefits to research and society, particularly for economic and social development, from the broader use and sharing of existing factual data sources.

Researchers in developing countries, in particular, lack the norms and traditions of more open data sharing for collaborative research and for the development of common research resources for the benefit of the entire research community. Moreover, the governments in many developing countries treat publicly-generated or publicly-funded research data either as secret or commercial commodities. Even if the governments do not actively protect such data, they lack policies that provide guidance or identify responsibilities for the researchers they fund as to under what conditions the researchers should make their research data available for others to use. Finally, developing countries frequently do not have data centers or digital repositories in place that researchers can submit their data for use by others. In those cases where such repositories do exist, they tend to be managed as black archives.

This international symposium is designed to help address these and related issues, and to improve the access to and use of publicly-funded scientific data.


View the agenda and speaker bios.