With the advent of global digital networks over the past two decades, both international cooperation in research and the formation of networked data resources on regional and global levels have become commonplace. Examples include the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the International Federation of Digital Seismograph Networks, the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration, the International Virtual Observatory Alliance, and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, to name but a few. Almost all fields of inquiry have some data centers or networks designed to provide access to data. In most cases, the U.S. research community has been the organizing force for the collaborative data-sharing networks.

Greater access to research data from public funding also is receiving more attention at the national policy levels of many countries, in part because such data resources are now seen as being major research infrastructure components. For example, the Research Councils of the United Kingdom adopted a more open policy for their data holdings in 2006. The Ministry of Science and Technology in China initiated the Scientific Data Sharing Project in 2002, in recognition of the fact that “[t]he insufficient use of China’s massive data holdings has been an urgent problem.”64 Many other countries are similarly reviewing or revising their national policies and myriad institutional ones to make better use of their data resources.

Finally, some international scientific, engineering, and medical organizations at both the intergovernmental and nongovernmental levels, such as the International Council of Scientific Unions, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology, and the OECD, are developing data-sharing policies and guidelines for adoption by members and the international research community. For example, the OECD in 2007 published its Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding, which are summarized in Box 3-2. The InterAcademy Panel, an organization of national science academies, supports a program to expand access to digital scientific information to researchers in developing countries.65


Because of the huge increase in the quantity of research data being generated, it is possible to say both that more data are being publicly disseminated than have ever been before and that more data are being withheld from public


Jinpei Cheng. 2006. The development of China’s scientific data sharing policy. In National Research Council. Strategies for Preservation of and Open Access to Scientific Data in China: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11710.


See the program’s Web site: http://www.interacademies.net/CMS/Programmes/4704.aspx.

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