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1. Welcoming Remarks Charles Vest National Academy of Engineering, United States Welcome to this International Symposium on the Case for International Sharing of Scientific Data, with a focus on developing countries. This symposium is one of over 200 activities organized each year by the U.S. National Academies. In the United States we have three academies: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. These academies together operate the National Research Council (NRC). We are chartered by the U.S. Congress to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, medicine, and health. The theme of this international symposium is the promotion of greater sharing of scientific data for the benefit of research and broader development, particularly in the developing world. This is an extraordinarily important topic. Indeed, I have devoted much of my own career to matters related to the concept of openness. I had the opportunity to promote and help build the open courseware program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This program has made the teaching materials for all 2,000 subjects taught at MIT available on the Web for anyone, anywhere, to use anytime at no cost. In countries where basic broadband was not available, we shipped it in on hard drives and compact disks. Its impact has been worldwide, but it has surely had the greatest impact on the developing world. I am also a trustee of a nonprofit organization named Ithaca that operates Journal Storage (JSTOR) and other entities that make scholarly information available at very low cost. Even more to the point, however, is the fact that the culture of science has been international and open for centuries. Indeed, the scientific enterprise can only work when all information is open and accessible, because science works through critical analysis and replication of results. In recent years, as some scientific data, and especially technological data, have increased in economic value frequently has caused us to be far less open with information than business and free enterprise require us to be. Indeed, the worldwide shift to what is known as open innovation is strengthening every day. Finally, since the end of World War II, the realities of modern military conflict and now terrorism have led governments to restrict information through classification. This is important, but I believe that we classify far too much information. The last thing we need today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, is further arbitrary limitations on the free flow of scientific information, whether by policies established by governments and businesses, or by lack of information infrastructure. For all these reasons, the international sharing of scientific data is one of the topics of great interest here at the National Academies and has been the subject of many of our past reports. This is the primary reason why this symposium has been co-organized by two of our boards, both within the NRC’s Policy and Global Affairs Division—the Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO) and the Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI). The purpose of BISO is to oversee and coordinate the work of more than 20 U.S. national committees corresponding to the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its different international scientific unions. It is the National Academies’ lead on relations with the international scientific, engineering, and medical organizations. The Board chair is Dr. Cutberto Garza of Boston College, who is a member of our Institute of Medicine. One of the former members of BISO and a National Academy of Engineering member is Professor Farouk El-Baz of Boston University, the chair of this symposium. The director of BISO and the principal co-organizer of this symposium is Kathie Bailey Mathae. 1
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2 THE CASE FOR INTERNATIONAL SHARING OF SCIENTIFIC DATA The mission of BRDI is to improve the stewardship, policy, and use of digital data and information for science and broader society. It undertakes studies, workshops, symposia such as this one, and many other activities in pursuit of that change. The current chair of the Board is Professor Michael Lesk of Rutgers University, also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and the vice chair is Dr. Roberta Balstad of Columbia University, who is on the steering committee of this symposium. Other members of the symposium steering committee include Professor Barbara Andrews of the University of Chile in Santiago; Dr. John Rumble of Information International Associates in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Professor Tilahun Yilma of the University of California, Davis in Sacramento, California, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences; and Professor William Wulf of the University of Virginia and the former president of the National Academy of Engineering. Paul Uhlir, the director of the Board on Research Data and Information, is the other main co-organizer of this symposium. Both boards are cooperating on this project with the Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (CFRS), organized under the International Council for Science (ICSU). ICSU was founded in Paris in 1932 as a nongovernmental organization dedicated to strengthening international science for the benefit of society. The CFRS was founded in 1963 with a mandate to promote the ICSU principle of universality of science, which encompasses the freedom of movement, association, expression, and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and research materials. Professor Bengt Gustafsson of the University of Uppsala in Sweden is the chair of the CFRS, and Professor Roger Pfister of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences is the executive director. Both are here today and will be actively participating in the symposium. We all share the same world. We share its environment, its natural resources, and our common humanity. We must also share our knowledge. Addressing the great global challenges of sustainability, health, and prosperity are all well served by opening access to and sharing scientific and technological data and information.