Issues of Transborder Flow of Data .. (fwd)

James H. Beach jbeach at NSF.GOV
Mon Oct 16 14:48:17 CDT 1995

Taxacom Subscribers:

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences is studying issues of data flow
across borders and has issued a brief questionnaire (below).  As many
Taxacom readers are involved in international projects involving
biodiversity and taxonomic data, I am forwarding this to the list in the
hope that many of you would take 15 minutes to respond with answers to
the e-mail address: BITS at NAS.EDU.

It would be good for the museum/biodiversity community to be heard on
these issues.

Replies from scientists outside of the U.S. are strongly encouraged.

Jim Beach


  Dear Colleague:

       The U.S. National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council
  (NAS/NRC) is undertaking a study to review important issues and trends in
  the international flow of scientific data, particularly along transborder
  electronic networks.  The study will characterize the technical, legal,
  economic, and policy issues that have an influence--favorable or
  negative--on access by the scientific community to scientific data.  The
  scope of the study includes symbolic and substantive textual data as well
  as numerical data; bibliographic data are only included to the extent
  that they are related to substantive and numerical data.  The study will
  identify and describe both the positive aspects and the barriers or
  hindrances that have impacts on research in the natural
  sciences--physical, astronomical, biological, and geological--and across
  those disciplines.  These will be illustrated by representative examples.
  Finally, it will identify medium- and long-term trends likely to have
  significant discipline-specific and interdisciplinary influence on the
  access to and use of scientific data, particularly in electronic forms,
  and, where appropriate, suggest approaches that could help overcome
  barriers and hindrances in the international context.
       The attached "Inquiry to Interested Parties" is a tool to help us
  identify significant issues and provide important information to us from
  the viewpoints of data users and suppliers regarding transborder
  dissemination of and access to scientific data in the natural sciences
  from the legal, policy, economic, and technical perspectives.  Because of
  the nature of this inquiry and the means by which it is being distributed
  (i.e., not a demographically controlled sample), we do not intend it to
  be a survey base for a statistical study.  Rather, we are interested in
  facts, interpretations, opinions, and real examples that will help us
  gain insight into the main issues of the study.  We also are seeking
  illustrative material that we can use to communicate the situation to the
  scientific and governmental establishments.
       The goal of our study is to help improve access to scientific data
  and services internationally.  We therefore hope that your interests are
  common with ours, and that you will assist us by providing your views on
  these issues by taking some time to fill out and return this form.  We
  recognize that not every respondent is likely to be able to comment on
  every question, and we do not wish to have the specific questions to be a
  limit on what you wish to inform us about.  Therefore, please skip any
  questions that you do not feel you can address meaningfully, and add any
  points that you would like for us to know or consider.   Feel free to use
  additional pages or attach other pertinent information if you have more
  that you wish to say to us.
       Please send your response and any related documentation by 31
  January 1996 to:

       Paul F. Uhlir
       Director, U.S. National Committee for CODATA
       National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council
       2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
       Washington, D.C. 20418  U.S.A.
       Telephone: (202) 334-3061; Fax: (202) 334-2154
       Internet: BITS at NAS.EDU

       We very much look forward to hearing from you.


  R. Stephen Berry
  Study Chairman


                               SCIENTIFIC DATA

  Please provide the following information:


  Telephone/fax/e-mail (optional):
  Brief description of your data activities and discipline background:

  Are you answering this questionnaire as a scientific data: user (  ),
  producer (  ), distributor (  ), vendor (  ), system manager (  ),
  network operator (  ), policymaker (  ), or other
  ?  [Please check all that apply.]

  1.  Barriers to Data Access.  Some restrictions on access to scientific
  data frequently are considered necessary to protect various interests as
  well as the integrity of the data. In your experience, have restrictions
  on data been a problem?  Can you identify any specific impacts or trends?
  Please explain.

  2.  Pricing of Data.  If you use data for scientific research, please
  tell us: (a) What data sets you have recently used for which you or your
  institution paid nothing, and in what form did you get these data (e.g.,
  WorldWideWeb, other on-line, CD-ROM, diskette, tape, film, paper, etc.)?

  (b) What data have you recently used for which you paid any amount
  (including the cost of reproduction or communication connectivity); in
  what form did you get these data, how were you charged (e.g., flat rate,
  charge per use, etc.), and how much?

  (c) What data would you like to use for your research, but consider them
  too expensive/costly?  What is the cost of such data and what is their
  value (apart from cost)?

  (d) For the data listed under (c) above, what arrangements could help
  make these data available to you?  In what form would you like to be able
  to get these data?

  If you supply data for scientific research (and perhaps for other uses),
  please tell us: (e) Are you a profit-making enterprise; if not, what is
  the form and intent of your organization?

  (f) What kind of data do you supply that are used by scientific

  (g) Besides scientific researchers, what kind of other users of your data
  are there, if any?

  (h) Do you provide special pricing for research/academic users?  If so,
  what is your pricing policy?

  (i) What are the media you use to distribute your data (e.g., paper,
  film, tapes, diskettes, CD-ROMs, on-line, etc.)?

  (j) If you sell or otherwise market your data, what is your perception of
  the price elasticity and demand for the data you distribute.  What
  changes would you make to your data products and services if demand were
  to increase?

  3.  Protection of Intellectual Property. (a)  What are the principal
  legal and technical mechanisms actually used for protecting unauthorized
  uses of data in your country/institution/discipline area?

  (b) Can you provide any information about how such legal or technical
  mechanisms are implemented or enforced?  What are the positive and
  negative impacts?

  4.  Less Developed Countries. (a) In your experience, what have been the
  principal problems associated with transferring data into or out of "less
  developed countries," including those nations from the former Soviet

  (b) What can be done to help alleviate these problems, especially by the
  international scientific community?

  5.  Electronic Networks.  (a) Has the development and growth of the
  Internet and other electronic networking services affected the way you
  access or distribute data internationally?  Please give specific examples
  if you can.

  (b) How do you think the situation with electronic networks will change
  in the next 5-10 years or so, and what are the likely impacts to your

  6.  Other Technical Issues.  (a) Besides those associated with electronic
  networks, what are the most important technical benefits or problems you
  have experienced in either disseminating or accessing data

  (b) What changes do you anticipate over the next 5-10 years, and what are
  the likely impacts to your activities?

  7.  Scientific Data for Global Problems. (a) In your view, what is the
  role of international scientific data for addressing global problems,
  now and in the future?  Please elaborate.

  (b) What can be done to enhance the availability or exchange of
  scientific data to better address these concerns?

  8.  Other Issues.  Do you have any specific concerns or examples of
  successes that you believe should be considered in this study?  In
  addition, we would welcome your suggestions for other institutions or
  individuals to contact with regard to these questions, as well as any
  references to key documents.

  Thank you for your cooperation.  Please return your response as indicated
  in the cover letter.

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