By Joseph King
The second meeting of Directors of World Data Centers (WDC) was hosted by the WDC for Climatology at its Asheville, NC, location on November 6-8, 2000. This WDC is itself hosted by the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Attending were Directors from most of the 47 WDCs, which are located in Japan, China, India, Russia, seven European countries, and the United States. The first such meeting had been held in 1995 in Wageningen, The Netherlands. The WDC system is described later in this article.
The theme of the Asheville meeting was the enhancement of the WDC system through the best use of current and emerging internet technologies. A series of six reviews of the state of the WDCs in six areas of the world was given, followed by multiple sessions of splinter groups for (1) overcoming barriers and enhancing capabilities and (2) opportunities possible through incorporation of new technologies.
Among the findings and recommendations coming out of the meeting were: WDCs should have simple html lists of their data collections to be indexed by targeted search tool(s) to facilitate users' data finding; a technical task group should be established for such things as addressing standards for data archiving and curation, developing tools that encourage and facilitate data submission, ingestion, and management, reviewing best current practice in data browsing, retrieval, etc.; more extensive use of mirror sites should be made; and several others.
One of the more surprising assertions made was that most users find data via commercial web search engines (Yahoo, Alta Vista, etc.) rather than through the data directories of the various data centers. This author would be especially interested in feedback from any NSSDC scientific or general public users as to how they initially found NSSDC.
Proceedings of the meeting are available at:
The WDC system was established in the 1950's to facilitate the exchange and preservation of data from the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year. The system includes sites specializing in the Earth's solid body, surface, oceans, atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field, plus the sun, cosmic rays, space science, and the impact of humans on the environment. Many WDCs are hosted by national data centers. A few include spacecraft data in their holdings or provide a conduit for international access to the space data archives of their host national data centers.
NSSDC hosts WDC for Satellite Information (WDC-SI). Until recently, the name was WDC-A for Rockets and Satellites. WDC-SI makes satellite launch announcements to an international recipient list within a day or two of all launches worldwide. Monthly summaries of launch information are contained in NSSDC/WDC-SI's Spacewarn Bulletins (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/spacewarn/). WDC-SI also serves as the pathway by which non-US scientists and others gain access to NSSDC's extensive data archives.
The WDC system has an array of web pages (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/wdc/wdcmain.html) through which much more detail on the history and present state of the WDC system is available. The WDC system is under the auspices of the ICSU (International Council for Science) Panel on World Data Centers (Director: Dr. Ferris Webster, U. Delaware). Evolution of the U.S. component of the WDC system is coordinated by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (Dr. Anne Linn).