The overall objectives of ICSU-WDS are defined in its Constitution as follows:
- Enable universal and equitable access to scientific data, data services, products and information
- Ensure long-term data stewardship
- Foster compliance to agreed-upon data standards and conventions
- Provide mechanisms to facilitate and improve access to data and data products
The strategy for achieving these objectives is outlined in this current five-year Strategic Plan, structured round five major targets. The concrete tasks and activities by which these targets will be achieved are outlined in an accompanying two-year Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan is a living document4, which also shows the status of progress towards completion of activities and targets. Both of these documents have been developed by the Scientific Committee in consultation with WDS Members.
The five major targets are:
Make trusted data services an integral part of international collaborative scientific research
Experiences, such as the International Polar Year 2007–2008, provide ample evidence that appropriate acquisition, handling, sharing, and dissemination of scientific research data is of critical importance to the success of international collaborative scientific endeavours. Appropriate provisions must be made at an early stage, and as an integral part of the scientific planning, to identify and secure reliable and trustworthy scientific data services to support research activities. Through the membership of certified data services, ICSU-WDS is in a unique position to foster the involvement of these data services in international scientific programmes, particularly those sponsored by ICSU. Together with its Members, partner organizations, and other stakeholders, ICSU-WDS will ensure that relevant activities—such as Working Groups and joint projects—are sufficiently promoted within the scientific community and that their deliverables contribute to the overarching scientific goals of this community. To this end, ICSU-WDS will endeavour to:
- Involve WDS Members more closely in international collaborative scientific research.
- Promote the use of best practices in international collaborative research programmes.
Nurture active disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific data services communities
Modern scientific challenges facing humankind—in particular those dealing with environmental and sustainability research—are multidisciplinary by nature. The transdisciplinary scientific research needed to tackle these challenges must be supported by internationally coordinated and integrated multidisciplinary scientific data services, which cannot exist and succeed without effective underlying disciplinary scientific data services. WDS membership includes disciplinary and multidisciplinary communities of varying levels of maturity: some communities are already well developed, and have achieved sustainable mechanisms for international coordination, while others are still in the early stages of coordination. By providing a forum for these communities to interact and share good practices, and by promoting collaborations in the context of multidisciplinary scientific programmes, ICSU-WDS can accelerate both maturation of less advanced communities and the emergence of a global community supporting scientific data services. To this end ICSU-WDS will strive to:
- Support existing data communities whose practices serve their members and the scientific community well.
- Strengthen emerging communities by helping them to identify their needs and to organize their activities.
- Provide mechanisms that facilitate cross-disciplinary interactions and activities.
- Contribute towards scientific development by improving the analytical environment.
Improve the funding environment
Modern scientific research norms dictate that long-term preservation of data underlying scientific knowledge should be guaranteed to ensure the integrity of science. Long-term preservation also enables data to be shared, reused, or used for novel purposes. The long-term sustainability of the scientific data services that assure long-term preservation is one of the most vital challenges for the scientific community. With the increase of data-intensive science and the internationalization of research activities, this challenge is becoming even more pressing. The sustainability of data services requires appropriate coordination of the funding provided by national, regional, and international research funders; coordination of the scientific plans devised by individual research programmes; and support for the operational capacities supplied by scientific data services. ICSU-WDS seeks to play a key role in this coordination by working with its Members to:
- Promote international, national, and disciplinary policies that lead to sustainable long-term funding.
- Engage and work with research funders to increase resources for data services, including as part of research funding.
Improve the trust in and quality of open Scientific Data Services
Several high-profile cases have highlighted the need for open sharing of quality-assured data underlying published scientific 8knowledge. For example, the integrity of data underlying critical climate research was challenged in the so-called Climategate, and several scientific studies have reported the impossibility of verifying key findings in cancer research because of missing or poor quality datasets. Scientific data services—with certified technical and scientific capacities—are essential components of the research environment. They play an essential role in ensuring the integrity and availability of datasets, and thus promote trust in science. ICSU-WDS is committed to increasing the quality of, and trust in, the services provided by its Members, and will concentrate on the following targets:
- Provide a certification framework for WDS Regular and Network Members.
- Actively promote policies of full and open access to data at national and international fora.
- Foster interoperable practices to facilitate data sharing.
- Facilitate access to, and use or reuse of datasets—including through publication—in particular for multidisciplinary research.
Position ICSU-WDS as the premium global multidisciplinary network for quality-assessed scientific research data
ICSU-WDS will take a leadership role in bringing together the key national, regional, and international, disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific data services to coordinate activities and create the strong network needed to support international research programmes with quality-assessed scientific research data. This objective is ambitious for a relatively young and small organization that relies on voluntary participation, but ICSU-WDS has historical legitimacy, particularly in the Natural Sciences, through its predecessor bodies and institutional legitimacy, as an Interdisciplinary Body of the ICSU, the leading non-governmental organization for planning and coordinating global research in the area of the environment. ICSU-WDS will publicize its activities widely and build on strong partnerships with like-minded organizations to achieve its targets.
More information is available on the ICSU WDS website:
or PDF :
ICSU World Data System Strategic Plan 2014-2018(PDF)