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Exploiting the digital revolution: developing capacity and integrating data across the disciplines of science

CODATA; Participants of the First ICSU-CODATA Workshop on Data Standards: Developing a Roadmap for Data Integration; Boulton, Geoffrey; Hodson, Simon; Archer, Phil; Cox, Simon; Hanisch, Robert; Michener, William; Rumble, John; Sansone, Susanna; Wyatt, Sally; Wyborn, Lesley

In June 2017, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) brought together international scientific unions and associations of ICSU and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) that have made major strides in this area of work, as well as other organisations that curate standards and vocabularies for particular disciplines. The objective of the meeting was to develop an action plan to realise the full potential of the data science, technologies, and infrastructures currently being created by specific disciplinary groups and expand those efforts on an inter- and trans-disciplinary basis.

The meeting identified key opportunities of the digital revolution and how they can be achieved. Priorities for action include:

  • the need for examples of the benefits that have already been realised by specific disciplinary groups and inter- and trans-disciplinary projects;
  • the need to extend activities to disciplinary fields that have not yet developed strategies , for developing interoperable vocabularies, standards and models, and for the creation of effective “information communities”;
  • there must be a major effort to achieve interoperability within and between disciplines, without this,  the national and regional initiatives to create cloud or platform technologies designed to provide services to support data priorities will fall far short of their potential;
  • international scientific unions and associations, and the international councils of which they are members, are uniquely qualified for this task, and their engagement is essential if its promise is to realised;
  • there is a need to develop a flagship programme on one or more major global challenge themes to develop, demonstrate and apply the methods of linking and integrating data from across the disciplines in the production and use of actionable knowledge.

Such a programme will entail a long-term, decadal commitment. It will convene and support the scientific members of ICSU and ISSC, serve as a mechanism for their engagement with relevant international research initiatives, significantly strengthen their data capacities and relate to the priorities of research funding bodies such as the Belmont Forum. The immediate next step was a major ICSU-CODATA workshop in November 2017 to bring together the full range of scientific international unions and associations with organisations working on complex global problems to sharpen the design of the flagship project and create the international, multi-disciplinary data community needed to convert these opportunities into solutions.

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