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Enhancing data access for IPY

One of the most intriguing aspects of IPY is how broad it is. More than any other international program, IPY has emphasized interdisciplinary study. We seek greater understanding of how systems work as a whole. This systemic view requires that we find and assess data and information outside our area of expertise.

Easier said than done.

Different disciplines describe similar phenomena in different ways; they use different assumptions and metaphors; they treat error and uncertainty differently. Even when data are available, investigators struggle to find relevant data for their application.

IPY cannot solve the whole problem of interdisciplinary data access, but we can make a major step forward. If an investigator can simply find and use all the life, social, and physical science data produced by IPY, we will have made a magnificant contribution. If that investigator is seeking IPY data 50 years from now, we have truly succeeded.

The IPY Data Policy and Management Subcommittee is working to make this happen. As a first step, the Data Committee has defined a core set of information necessary to describe each IPY data set and allow simple discovery across disciplines. This core set of information is described in the IPY Metadata Profile. A metadata profile is a set of required fields and vocabularies for a given metadata standard.

All IPY data registries and repositories collecting data and metadata from IPY projects are required to collect and share sufficient information to adhere to the IPY Metadata Profile requirements. Similarly, IPY projects are required to submit the compliant metadata to appropriate registries and repositories as they are available. (Note: The IPY Metadata Profile has very minimal requirements. These are necessary but insufficient requirements for adequate data stewardship.)

This is only an initial standard for IPY. The Data Committee seeks feedback from IPY participants on how this profile fits their discipline or community of practice. More information is available at

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