More on CODATA "Bits of Power" study
julian at UKANS.EDU
Fri Apr 11 11:10:07 CDT 1997
A little more info on the Bits of Power study. What follows are the
introductory remarks to the press provided by the chair of the study
committee, Steve Berry. Anybody with additional questions about CODATA or
its activities should feel free to contact me for information.
Public Briefing April 10, 1997
R. Stephen Berry
James Franck Distinguished Service Professor Department of Chemistry and
the James Franck Institute The University of Chicago
Chair, Committee on Issues in the Transborder Flow of Scientific Data
National Research Council
Good morning. I welcome you today as we release the report
Bits of Power: Issues in Global Access to Scientific Data. This report
represents the work of a National Research Council committee that I have
chaired during the past two years. At the behest of the U.S. National
Committee for CODATA (Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the
International Council of Scientific Unions), our study group has
investigated the changing environment for the international exchange of
data in the natural sciences. We have completed our study and now offer
our conclusions and recommendations in this report.
I shall assume that we all share the view that research in the
natural sciences is a necessary component of our society, and that
maintaining the health of this enterprise is something we all consider
important. Scientific data are essential to that health; without ready
access to data, scientists could not conduct their research.
Fostered by the tools of modern electronic communication, the
nature of science today is perhaps the most truly international of all
human activities. In carrying out our research, we scientists exchange
ideas and data as readily with colleagues in Tokyo or Sydney or Berlin as
we do with those in our own universities or federal laboratories. A
fundamental principle underlies our report which embodies this
characteristic in the context of data: Full and open exchange of
scientific data -- the "bits of power" on which the health of the
scientific enterprise depends -- is vital for the nation's progress and
for maximizing the social benefits that accrue from science worldwide.
This principle of "full and open exchange" means that data and
information derived from publicly funded research should be available
with as few restrictions as possible, on a non-discriminatory basis, for
no more than the cost of reproduction and distribution. This principle
-- sometimes called "the Bromley principle" -- was first
enunciated in the context of global change research, in a statement of
the Office of Science and Technology Policy in July, 1991.
Two trends, sometimes in conflict, are challenging the
attainment of full and open sharing of scientific data across national
boundaries. One is the rapid increase in volume of data that stems from
technical advances such as computers, networks, and remote sensors. The
other is a global trend toward imposing economic and legal restrictions
on access to scientific data derived from publicly funded research. The
first trend forces scientists to re-examine how they carry out their own
work, and the second, to involve themselves in the formation of public
policies that will affect their capabilities for doing research.
One manifestation of these trends acting in concert is the
growing congestion of the Internet. This stems from the simultaneous
needs of scientists to exchange ever-larger volumes of data, and the
evolution of the primary role of the Internet from a medium of scientific
communication to a medium of commerce and entertainment.
The committee is particularly concerned about possible changes
to treaties and laws covering intellectual property, which would have
adverse effects on the conduct of science. The problem reached a crux
with current attempts, both national and international, to establish a
new legal framework that threatens to subordinate the needs of scientists
and others working in the public interest, to the interests of
entrepreneurs in the business of selling databases. Put in perspective,
the challenge of the underlying issue is finding a balance between the
protection of public goods and the protection of individual intellectual
property. Unfortunately, the concerns of the scientific and educational
communities went unheard in the dialogue until very recently.
The committee believes that it is imperative for the scientific
community to have a part in formulating the structures that will suitably
balance the public and private interests. This is especially important
now because the World Intellectual Property Organization is considering a
new treaty on database protection, and related proposals to enact
domestic legislation protecting databases are under consideration for
Congressional action. We view proposals that have appeared thus far as
extremely threatening to the conduct of scientific research. They would
remove the "fair use" exemptions which have long allowed scientists and
educators to use copyrighted materials free or at very reduced costs,
specifically for purposes such as research and teaching. These proposals
would create exclusive, monopolistic rights of virtually unlimited
duration for database owners, and would make it extremely difficult in
many cases for competitive data-suppliers to enter the market.
The committee recommends, as a general principle, that full and
open access be adopted as the international norm for scientific data
derived from publicly funded research. More specific recommendations fall
into four categories: legal issues, economic issues, technological
issues, and, of course, data issues internal to the natural sciences.
The five recommendations concerning legal issues are directed
toward the Office of Science and Technology Policy, science agencies and
professional societies including CODATA, and all others concerned with
sustaining the health of the scientific enterprise.
First, these bodies should advocate and explain to all relevant
legislative forums the principle of full and open exchange of scientific
Second, they should demand that national and international
legislative processes now in progress allow the scientific and
educational communities to participate in the dialogue and present their
views. This must be done to achieve a balance between concerns for
public goods and for private intellectual property.
Third, these groups should advocate the incorporation of fair
use principles into any legislation or regulation structure applying to
scientific data on electronic media.
Fourth, these bodies and individuals should work with Congress
and the U.S. representatives to the World Trade Organization and the
World Intellectual Property Organization to resist measures that could
weaken the nation's preeminence in science and technology.
Finally, these issues should be pursued not only within the
United States but also internationally, through international scientific
organizations and U.S. foreign policy channels concerned with
The dominant economic concerns of the report stem from the ways
and means by which scientific data are generated, archived and
distributed, and with the trend toward commercialization of increasing
quantities of data. Some of this commercialization is privatization of
activities that were previously done by governments, and some is entry of
governments into commercial vending of data. One might initially suppose
that privatizing the distribution of scientific data would be desirable.
However, a careful analysis shows that the market for scientific data is
very different from those of ordinary commerce, and that privatization
may, in many situations, be undesirable for the society as a whole. The
committee recommends a set of economic criteria for structuring
facilities and institutions for the distribution of scientific data
generated by public funding.
Within the sciences, relevant scientific organizations should
examine the development of better coordinated networks of data centers.
Planning is needed now to find stable ways to maintain the effectiveness
of the Internet or some variant thereof for exchange of scientific
information. Scientists who generate data through publicly funded
research should make their results available as soon as possible. If
they wish to hold a data set for some period in order to explore its
consequences, the duration of that period should be established by the
particular scientific communities, and adherence should be monitored by
the appropriate funding agency. The Office of Science and Technology
Policy should develop an overall policy for the long-term retention of
scientific data. Finally, a variety of efforts, including aid in the
form of computers and networks, is needed to assist developing countries
to participate fully in electronic data management and exchange for
research and education--for their benefit and
Thank you all. We would like to begin now to take your
questions. Would you come to one of the standing microphones and state
your name and affiliation before you begin your question?
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