The ability to achieve innovation in a competitive global information society hinges on the capability to swiftly and reliably find, understand, share, and apply complex information from widely distributed sources for discovery, progress, and productivity. Limits on information access translate into limits on all other aspects of competitiveness. Thus, digital information preservation and access capability are critical to the progress of individuals, nations, science and society.
This states very succinctly the issues that we are dealing with here at this symposium and captures how incredibly important it is to have access to digital information.
There are a variety of challenges associated with biological (and other types of) data. First, we have unprecedented amounts of such data. Given all this raw data, how do we enhance access to it? How do we organize it so that researchers working in one discipline can have access to data from a totally different discipline in a different lab? Can we find a way to accelerate understanding and knowledge to facilitate advances in important fields, such as biotechnology, health, agriculture, environmental remediation, and sustainable biofuels?
We need a framework with which to compare and combine experimental data collected in different labs so that we can get a fuller understanding of the identity, structure, and biological functions. Science is moving away from looking at small, individual items to looking at the larger system—the systems approach to science.
Someone who has collected data for one reason may be shocked at how that data can be used by someone else in a totally different field. The founder of the World Wide Web was at the Finnish Embassy this week. His key message was that it is astounding what other people will do with your data, based on just a few days of you putting the data out there. He urged people not to be so cautious about trying to make their data available in a perfect form on a fancy Web page; even if you do not have time to format the data in a certain way, once you get the data out somebody else might be able to take that next step.
One problem with this, of course, is that if you get the data out there, but there is no way to organize it or access it, and there is no shared vocabulary, people will find it difficult to use the data. To address these issues, we probably need some enhanced analysis methods for large databases and we need to pay more attention to data interoperability and compatibility.
There are also a variety of legal implications to sharing data, as has been already discussed here. These tend to be more complex when human data are being shared, and they raise questions in the areas of intellectual property, privacy, and dual use.
For the rest of my talk I will focus on the OECD. It is headquartered in Paris, has 30 member nations, and was established in 1961. It came out of the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II, and the United States was one of founding members. The OECD brings members together to support sustainable economic growth and maintain financial stability. The idea behind the OECD is to provide a forum in which to compare policy experiences, identify good practices and guidelines, and coordinate national and international policies.
It is a very large organization and it would thus be impossible for any one person to keep track of everything that goes on there. Much of what goes on at the OECD is trade-related, or finance-related, but there is a part of the OECD that deals with research