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Contents | Data for Science and Society: The Second National Conference on Scientific and Technical Data | U.S. National Committee for CODATA | National Research Council Chapter 1: Welcome | Data for Science and Society: The Second National Conference on Scientific and Technical Data | U.S. National Committee for CODATA | National Research Council

U.S. National Committee for CODATA
National Research Council



Menas Kafatos

     I would like to welcome you to the U.S. National Committee for CODATA's Second National Conference on Scientific and Technical Data. We are very pleased that you have been able to join us today.

     I am Menas Kafatos, and I am the chair of the Conference Organizing Committee. I teach physics and computational sciences at George Mason University, and I am also the director of the Center for Earth Observing Space Research.

     The term "CODATA" stands for the Committee on Data for Science and Technology, which is an interdisciplinary group of the International Council for Science (ICSU)--an umbrella organization for a broad range of nongovernmental disciplinary scientific unions and interdisciplinary committees. CODATA is concerned with all types of quantitative data that result from experimental measurements of observations in the natural and social sciences and in the engineering disciplines. CODATA gives particular emphasis to data management issues common to different scientific disciplines and to data used outside the field in which they were generated. The main objectives of CODATA are the improvement of the quality and accessibility of data, as well as the methods by which the data are acquired, managed, and analyzed; the facilitation of international cooperation among those collecting, organizing, and using data; and the promotion of an increased awareness in the scientific and technical community of the importance of these activities.

     We now live in the information age, and data are a part of our everyday lives. So I believe that the mission of CODATA as an organization is very important-- to address data issues that really cut across so many different fields. We will hear a great deal of technical information throughout this conference. There is an exponential growth of data in the scientific disciplines, and it is not going to slow down. It is going to increase, and the challenges that face all of us to make sense of the data and to be able to extract useful information from them are very great.

     The purpose of this Second National Conference on Scientific and Technical Data is to address important multidisciplinary issues in managing and using scientific and technical (S&T) data and to improve the visibility of these issues nationally. The main focus is to promote the availability and usefulness of S&T data to all users, both in research and in the broader society. Quite often as scientists and engineers, we use our data but then don't really understand how we should make them available to broader communities. So this is a very important issue.

     Three main challenges will be addressed during this conference. First of all, how can access to and use of S&T data for interdisciplinary basic and applied research be improved? Second, how can access to and use of S&T data by other sectors and applications areas outside research--such as business, education, media and entertainment, and general public understanding--be improved? There is a lot of discussion on these issues, but the challenges remain. Finally, how do we measure and evaluate productivity and performance in the management and use of S&T data within disciplines, across disciplines, and in other sectors and applications areas? These broad questions, and their many subissues, will be examined in some detail over the next two days.

     The conference consists of plenary sessions along with technical demonstrations and contributed papers. Before we start the main program, I would like to acknowledge and thank a number of institutions and individuals who have worked to make this conference take place. First of all, the sponsors of the conference who provided funding, namely, the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Autometric, Inc., which is hosting the reception this evening.

     I would also like to thank Susan Zevin of NOAA, who chaired the Conference Program Committee and the other members of the Conference Program Committee and the Organizing Committee, as well as the chair of the U.S. National Committee for CODATA, Goetz Oertel. In addition, I would like to acknowledge Paul Uhlir, the committee's director, and the committee staff for their hard work throughout these few months leading to the conference. Finally, I would like to thank all of the plenary speakers, as well as those individuals who prepared and contributed papers, posters, and technical demonstrations.

     We thank you for agreeing to participate and share your wisdom in what I believe will turn out to be a very successful meeting. We have a very full and interesting program.

Copyright 2001 the National Academy of Sciences