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Introduction

Rapidly changing technological capabilities for creating, manipulating, disseminating, and using digital scientific and technical (S&T) data are producing many new opportunities and challenges. The opportunities arise primarily in data-intensive research and applications, in the integration of diverse data for new results, and in making vast amounts of factual information available for a broad spectrum of users. The challenges are in effectively managing these data resources for optimal access and use, and for developing rational rules and structures for that process.

At a time when S&T data have never been more important to the progress of science and to the use of these data in support of all types of decision making, CODATA, an interdisciplinary committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU), has worked to improve the effectiveness and impact of such activities. At both the national and international levels CODATA is concerned with all types of quantitative data resulting from experimental measurements or observations in the natural and social sciences and in the engineering disciplines. Particular emphasis is given to data management problems common to different scientific disciplines and to data used outside the field in which they were generated. The general objectives are the improvement of the quality and accessibility of data, as well as the methods by which the data are acquired, managed, analyzed, and evaluated; the facilitation of international cooperation among those collecting, organizing, and using data; and the promotion of an increased awareness in the S&T community of the importance of these activities.

Scientific databases relating to the environment, natural resources, and health on the African continent are, with few exceptions, very difficult to create and manage effectively. Yet the creation of these and other types of databases—and



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1 Introduction Rapidly changing technological capabilities for creating, manipulating, disseminating, and using digital scientific and technical (S&T) data are producing many new opportunities and challenges. The opportunities arise primarily in data-intensive research and applications, in the integration of diverse data for new results, and in making vast amounts of factual information available for a broad spectrum of users. The challenges are in effectively managing these data resources for optimal access and use, and for developing rational rules and structures for that process. At a time when S&T data have never been more important to the progress of science and to the use of these data in support of all types of decision making, CODATA, an interdisciplinary committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU), has worked to improve the effectiveness and impact of such activities. At both the national and international levels CODATA is concerned with all types of quantitative data resulting from experimental measurements or observations in the natural and social sciences and in the engineering disciplines. Particular emphasis is given to data management problems common to different scientific disciplines and to data used outside the field in which they were generated. The general objectives are the improvement of the quality and accessibility of data, as well as the methods by which the data are acquired, managed, analyzed, and evaluated; the facilitation of international cooperation among those collecting, organizing, and using data; and the promotion of an increased awareness in the S&T community of the importance of these activities. Scientific databases relating to the environment, natural resources, and health on the African continent are, with few exceptions, very difficult to create and manage effectively. Yet the creation of these and other types of databases—and

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their subsequent use to produce new information and knowledge for decision makers—is essential to advancing S&T progress in that region and to capacity building for sustainable development in riparian regions. The Workshop on Scientific Data for Decision Making Toward Sustainable Development: Senegal River Basin Case Study examined some of the scientific databases that have been collected or created about the Senegal River basin (in Senegal, and in the bordering countries of Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea) and used—or not used—for decision making for that region. A multidisciplinary approach was taken, including data and expertise in the areas of ecology, biodiversity, biology, agronomy, hydrology, meteorology, health and medical sciences, geography (geographic information systems or GIS), computer and information sciences, and social sciences. The project, which was organized jointly by the U.S. and Senegal national committees for CODATA, had several objectives. The most immediate was to focus on important issues relating to the management of scientific data for the sustainable development of the Senegal River area in the West African region. “Sustainable development” has been defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1 Working toward a sustainable future requires concerted action in three inter-related areas—economic growth and equity, conserving natural resources and the environment, and social development—all areas that were identified as essential yet sometimes conflicting in the development of the Senegal River basin. The workshop was organized pursuant to the following statement of task in this broader sustainable development context: Identify all types of existing scientific and technical data and information sources relating to the Senegal River basin that have been created or collected by government, academic, and private-sector entities. Examine how these data and information sources have been used for research and for various types of decision making regarding the environment and people in the Senegal River basin area, using specific examples. Identify technical, scientific, management, and policy barriers encountered in both the creation of these databases and in their use for decision making. In identifying these barriers, consider what was done previously and what might be done in the future to overcome them. In addition to bringing greater attention and understanding to the substantive issues at the interface of data resources and their use in local and regional deci 1   World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Also known as “the Brundtland Report.”

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sion making, the workshop had two other objectives that were focused more on the process itself than on the substantive aspects. The first was to bring U.S. and African experts together, not only to focus on the questions posed in the statement of task but also to develop linkages for future collaborations, both among the participating individuals and between the USNC/CODATA and other African CODATA committees. The other broader objective was to promote U.S.-Senegal and U.S.-African scientific cooperation and to stimulate potential interest in other related initiatives in the area of S&T data activities and capacity building. Toward this end the project was intended to demonstrate to governments, regional organizations, and various decision makers the value of African data work and of cooperation with U.S. governmental and nongovernmental organizations in S&T data projects. Because this is a summary report of the workshop itself, the report is limited in scope to the presentations and resource documents that were identified during the meeting, and to the information gathered during the site visits to the OMVS Documentation Center in Saint-Louis and to the Ecological Monitoring Center in Dakar on the two days preceding the workshop. Chapter 2 provides some relevant background on the Senegal River basin itself and its regional management organization, as well as a description of the S&T data sources (including links) related to the Senegal River basin that were identified during the meeting. Chapter 3 presents a summary of the main presentations made at the workshop. The concluding Chapter 4 provides a list of key scientific, technical, institutional, and policy issues that were raised in the presentations and panel discussions. The appendixes to the report provide additional background information, including the workshop agenda, the list of workshop participants, contact information for selected scientific data sources, and a list of acronyms and initialisms used in the report.