DataNet – Data Archive

Imagine a cyberinfrastructure that builds a data archive! Well the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US has a massive call for proposals to build just that a Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network Partners (DataNet) I am so jealous of those folks!  Canada has no equivalent to an NSF and does not invest in the future access of data at all!  The Canadian Digital Information Strategy document will be released for public consultation in October but it is no where near as comprehensive as the Cyberinfrastructure work.  The Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery is well worth reading.

5 comments

Actually, Canada’s equivalent to the NSF is NSERC (the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council). However, NSERC works differently from NSF and you generally would not have this sort of infrastructure project being funded by NSERC. They typically fund professors’ research programmes, not projects that they cook up. In terms of support for research, I think that the situation is generally better in Canada (because if you don’t want to work on one of their projects, your life is not so great), but it is pretty different, at least.

Yes we have NSERC and it does excellent work. We also have SSHRC. But it in no way do they conduct national scale analysis on the direction that science can go in Canada, what science needs for it to flourish and it does not work toward the integration of scientific works and developing and enabling infrastructure for it to occur – Think of GRID Supercomputing. NSERC operates as a granting agency for products, market and not as a research think tank that brings together experts from across the country to work on national strategies and publish excellent research reports and papers (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/) to help us work toward achieving those strategies. NSF publications are also free to read online.

We also have the NRC (http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/aboutUs/mandate_e.html) but it to does not perform the functions the NSF does at integrating and providing direction.

I follow the preservation of scientific data and geomatics research a bit, and I am always amazed at the caliber of the documentation that comes out of NSF working groups. I am not suggesting we want to do all the NSF does, nor emulate their model entirely, however, it would be really great to have a Canadian agency with clout and resources to help us move forward collectively as a nation in terms of science and to harness the brain power, skills and ability we have here to do so. Both SSHRC and NSERC are great granting agencies but beyond that there is not much policy direction beyond their function such as building a cyberinfrastructure to support scientific research and to disseminate and preserve scientific data for Canadians.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI, http://innovation.ca) might be sort of what you’re thinking of. It is, of course, much smaller than the NSF, but that’s the way things go in Canada.

I forgot about them! They however only fund infrastructure and not the people that need to run them or use them for research and they are pretty project focused.

I guess I’m thinking of an organization that can work with SSHRC, NRC, NSERC, CFI, their provincial counterparts, and the branches of governments that are science driven like NRCan, CSA and so on along with the data heavy organizations such as StatCan, Elections Can etc. and their counterparts at provincial and municipal levels and the archives, libraries and museums. Then have it somehow bridge with the Universities and colleges and private sector. Overall the objective would be to advance science and related activities at a national scale in a distributed but integrated way across geography and administrative scales.

For instance it would be so fantastic to have a clear environmental R&D, combined with educated and intelligent procurement policies, and the necessary physical and social infrastructures to enable scientific (social and physical) research into new areas or make more efficient the areas we are struggling with as well as a mechanism to share all that data, information and research freely, fairly, seamlessly, equitably in accessible formats.

These lovely climate change induced warm October afternoons do tend to have me dreamy states! I am sure we have so much great work to do but somehow at the moment it is bits and pieces that are scattered all over the place and a bit of an integrated collective approach could go a long way – not a hire the consultant firm to do approach – but an approach like the NSF with consultative processes of specialized scientific disciplines would be a great way to start!

That is somewhat sad to here. I guess in my naive state, I just assumed that all countries had an NSF equivalent, especially Canada as it is so close to us. Here’s to hoping.