World's science ministers call for open access to scientific data

February 3, 2004

Brussels, 02 Feb 2004

Research ministers representing 34 countries, as well as the European Union, have adopted a declaration on access to research data from public funding aimed at enhancing the quality of science systems worldwide.

Further declarations on international scientific cooperation for sustainable development, neuroinformatics and high energy physics were also adopted at the same meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) committee for scientific and technological policy on 29 and 30 January.

Ministers recognised that open access to data, information and knowledge 'contributes decisively to the advancement of scientific research and innovation' and 'maximise[s] the value derived from public investments in data collection'.

They therefore concluded that open and transparent methods for accessing research data should be created, either by strengthening existing instruments, or by establishing new mechanisms for collaboration. Achieving this aim whilst ensuring the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets was highlighted as a priority.

The committee invited the OECD to draw up a set of guidelines aimed at facilitating cost effective access to publicly funded research data, to be endorsed at a later stage.

A second declaration was adopted on the contribution of international cooperation in science and technology to achieving sustainable development.

The committee agreed that: '[T]he process of globalisation has given rise to new patterns of networking that are changing the way in which knowledge is created, diffused and applied, and comprehensive responses, especially innovative policies and technologies, are required to bridge global inequalities [...] in knowledge and information.'

Ministers said they would strengthen existing funding programmes and instruments in order to support international scientific collaboration for sustainable development. These efforts will focus particularly on raising public awareness of the use of science for sustainable development, and strengthening the innovation and knowledge capacities of developing countries.

International cooperation was also the key theme of the committee's discussions on neuroinformatics. It was agreed that the study of the human brain would be one of the most important and difficult scientific challenges of the 21st century, leading to improvements in the quality of life for millions of people.

Neuroinformatics will be essential for managing the vast amounts of scientific data that such research will generate, and ministers argued that a coordinated international effort was needed to establish the necessary infrastructures.

To this end, they recommended the establishment of an 'international neuroinformatics coordinating facility (INCF) and an associated funding scheme. The aim of the INCF would be to coordinate the management of national neuroinformatics databases in order to ensure open access to standardised data, as well as promoting and funding research projects in the field.

Finally, the OECD committee welcomed a working group report on large accelerator based projects in high energy physics, and supported its conclusion that next generation facilities should be established on a global scale. The creation of a roadmap for future activities and the promotion of international research cooperation were further recommendations of the report that the committee endorsed. To read the committee's final conclusions, please click here

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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