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Access to publicly funded scientific research data has become an international issue. For example, the OECD March 2003 final report on Promoting Access to Public Research Data for Scientific, Economic and Social Development adopted the central principle that "publicly funded research data should be openly available to the maximum extent possible". The report was crafted by a multinational, multidisciplinary team which included members from the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, the U.K., The Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and Finland. It also had a panel of experts and a number of observers from CODATA, the ESF, the NSF and GBIF.
Nationally, the recently completed National Data Archive Consultation, conducted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the National Archives (NA), identified the need for a national research data archive network in Canada. A seminar on Access to Publicly Funded Scientific Data, held at the National Research Council in May 2003, concluded that:
Seminar participants recommended that a study be conducted on the issue of access to publicly funded scientific data from the perspectives of the Canadian natural science, technical and medical (STM) communities.
In response, several agencies propose to ask a Task Force of experts in various related fields to convene a National Forum to investigate pertinent issues and make appropriate recommendations. It is understood that this study should be complementary to the SSHRC-NA study and other relevant studies, adopt their methodologies as appropriate and not repeat all of their relevant work.
The Task Force, working through the Forum, will be addressing issues like the following:
It is important to note that this study will focus on policy issues related to long-term access to data and should not be confused with discipline-specific projects whose goal is to establish data archives for their practitioners. Clearly, it is critical that those funding such projects insist that any resulting archives be designed with interoperability and integration in view.
The Task Force will be asked to submit to the sponsoring agencies a report on their findings with recommendations for actions by the those agencies, universities and other relevant bodies. It is estimated that the process will take approximately one year.
The Task Force is supported by a Project Management Group with members drawn from the: Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Industry Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The Group is led by the National Research Council.