exponential accumulation of these electronic data—these bits of power—and our expanding capacity to manipulate them are in turn changing the nature of scientific inquiry and its application to the great challenges facing mankind.

As in the past, generating data in the natural sciences is only the first step in the process of creating, organizing, and applying knowledge. Other elements of this endeavor include discovery of new principles, integration of information across disciplines, dissemination by formal and informal education, and application by many sectors of society. Today, however, larger interdisciplinary research efforts such as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme,4 the Human Genome Project,5 and other international "megascience" research programs6 are creating new frameworks of knowledge not only about the universe and what constitutes it, but also about living organisms, human behavior, and their mutual interaction. In addition, traditional disciplinary research continues in field studies, the laboratories of individual scientists, and at large joint facilities.

Increasingly, all forms of research involve both formal and informal international scientist-to-scientist contact and exchanges of data. This increase in international collaboration is owing partly to changing political and economic conditions and also to the growing availability of electronic communication. Whether carried out on a large scale under cooperative agreements or less formally among individual researchers, these collaborations have become integral to the search for scientific understanding. Their success—as well as progress in achieving the public benefits of science—depends on the full and open availability of scientific data.


The purpose of this report is to describe and develop new insights into the trends, issues, and problems that are shaping the transnational exchange of scientific data. Specifically, the Committee on Issues in the Transborder Flow of Scientific Data was charged with the following tasks:

  • Outline the needs for access to data in the major research areas of current scientific interest that fall within the scope of CODATA—the physical, astronomical, geological, and biological sciences.
  • Characterize the legal, economic, policy, and technical factors and trends that have an influence—whether favorable or negative—on access to data by the scientific community.
  • Identify and analyze the barriers to international access to scientific data that may be expected to have the most adverse impact in discipline areas within CODATA's purview, with emphasis on factors common to all the disciplines.
  • Recommend to the sponsors of the study approaches that could help overcome barriers to access in the international context.

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