Another of the committee's assumptions is a corollary of the first and reflects what the committee believes is virtually a consensus of the global scientific community: that the most valued goal of scientists is that other scientists should learn of their work and use it. The common interests of all scientists, of science, and indeed of society in general thus are best served by as full and open an exchange of scientific information as possible, consistent with the preservation of scientists' capacity to continue their investigations. This assumption can sometimes put scientists at odds with other sectors of society, as discussion and examples in this report illustrate. Because the scientific community is not the only sector with an interest in the handling of scientific data and information, scientists need to remain involved in the current policy debate that will affect the prospects for continuing open, global access to scientific data.

This study has been motivated by a concern for ensuring the continuing strength of the scientific enterprise as a source of international well-being and progress; hence the analysis and recommendations reflect that motivation. The extent to which the committee's recommendations are adopted may require balancing this motivation against the motivations of others, whose objectives are not necessarily the same.

The chapters that follow (a) describe the information technology tools and capabilities that are transforming the handling and use of scientific data, and some of the principal impacts on data exchange arising from these technological developments; (b) summarize the underlying factors in international scientific data exchange, how scientists use data, and what data issues confront them as they carry out their research; (c) examine the economic aspects of data obtained from publicly funded research; and (d) analyze the conflicts arising from information technology's impact on the domain of intellectual property law that regulates scientists' access to data. Technical terms and acronyms are defined, and examples of successful data exchange activities given, in the appendixes.


  • 1.  

    Basic, or fundamental, research may be defined as research that leads to new understanding of how nature works and how its many facets are interconnected. See John A. Armstrong, "Is Basic Research a Luxury Our Society Can No Longer Afford?," Karl Taylor Compton Lecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 13, 1993.


    J.H. Westbrook, (1992), "A History of Data Recording, Analysis, and Dissemination," pp. 430460 in Data for Discovery: Proceedings of the Twelfth International CODATA Conference, P. Glaeser, ed., Begell House, New York.


    National Research Council (1995), Preserving Scientific Data on Our Physical Universe: A New Strategy for Archiving the Nation 's Scientific Information Resources, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.


    See the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme's World Wide Web site at <>. Note: In keeping with the subject and message of this report, the reader will find, in addition to references to texts and personal communications, many

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