property rights of the people who live there, barriers unrelated to the research itself sometimes arise that inhibit the flow, particularly the international exchange, of biological data.


The increasing use of electronic means for data collection, storage, manipulation, and dissemination is one of a number of broad and interrelated trends that have significant implications for access to data in the natural sciences. These trends include the following:

  • Rapid growth of the body of scientific data;
  • Development of large international research programs;
  • Insufficient funding for data management and preservation activities worldwide;
  • Decentralization of data management and distribution;
  • Electronic publication; and
  • Increasing use of simulations and animations as scientific data.

The discussion in this section addresses these broad trends as well as the opportunities and challenges they present. Some disciplineor field-specific issues are discussed in the next section.

Rapid Growth of the Body of Scientific Data

In every area of the sciences, both the volumes and the types of data have grown at rates unforeseeable 30 years ago. This growth has been especially rapid primarily because of vast improvements in and increasing availability of imaging detector arrays at most wavelength ranges. For example, in the Earth sciences, new technology allows data to be collected repetitively with high spatial resolution. Remote sensing systems are generating immense volumes of data that are pushing the limits of our ability to store, retrieve, and analyze those data. For instance, the introduction of ground-based Doppler radar and new satellite systems is significantly increasing the data volumes within the atmospheric sciences. Table 3.1 shows a selection of land remote sensing data sets and their anticipated volumes that are archived by the Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center operated by the U.S. Geological Survey in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In seismology, new initiatives both in the United States and in other countries have resulted in continuous, broad-band digital recording at high sampling rates. Special studies using up to 1,000 sensors generate very large data sets for each experiment. Table 3.2 illustrates the actual and projected growth in data volumes at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Data

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement