Polar science: global partnership to work on data sharing

Sir

Your Editorial 'The way ahead for polar science' (Nature 457, 1057; 2009) correctly points out the critical need for a sustained archive of the data collected during International Polar Year (IPY). As you mention in your News Feature 'In from the cold' (Nature 457, 1072–1077; 2009), “the IPY data-management committee is sorting out the options for setting up a fully integrated data-sharing system”. The primary mechanism for this data sharing is the International Polar Year Data and Information Service (IPYDIS).

The IPYDIS is a global partnership of data centres, archives and networks, which together ensure proper stewardship of IPY and related data (http://ipydis.org). We seek to create a union catalogue that provides access to all IPY data distributed in archives around the world.

As you emphasize, sustained support for this activity is a critical challenge for nations and for the international science community. Australia, Canada, China, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and others have already started setting up a system, but the work to present the IPY data legacy has only just begun.

Although the IPY data policy encourages more comprehensive and more timely release of data, data sharing is still a challenge for polar science. We need to build on our success and extend the effort to a broader community. To this end, the International Council for Science has established a new project, 'The Polar Information Commons: establishing the framework for long-term stewardship of polar data and information'. The council's committee on data for science and technology, CODATA, leads this initiative to establish a sustainable long-term framework for the preservation of and access to polar data.

We encourage a 'commons' approach, as used in other disciplines, that recognizes information as a common societal benefit. Historically, society has managed both to share and administer common property, such as fisheries and telecommunications bandwidth, but to sustain these resources requires ongoing societal attention. This approach can strengthen incentives for scientists, research institutions and nations to contribute and document data, reduce barriers to data sharing and provide a focal point for data assessment by the community.

See also: Polar science: bid for freely accessible biodiversity archive

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Parsons, M. Polar science: global partnership to work on data sharing. Nature 458, 830 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/458830a

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