International Council for Science - World Data Center System

Mission Statement of the World Data Center System

Data constitute the raw material of scientific understanding. The World Data Center system works to guarantee access to solar, geophysical and related environmental data. It serves the whole scientific community by assembling, scrutinizing, organizing and disseminating data and information


This Guide is published at a time of great change in the World Data Center System. The System was created nearly forty years ago to meet the needs of scientists involved in the International Geophysical Year. Since that time it has provided geophysical and solar data and information to scientists in all countries. It even proved effective during the years of the Cold War. Today the WDC System is asked to respond to new scientific programs that involve new disciplines, use new technology, and have a broader international base.

ICSU programs in global change, climate, and the environment are placing new requirements on a worldwide system to serve the data needs of the scientific community. These programs involve environmental disciplines that go beyond those in the IGY which, by their nature, require new ways of handling data and information. At the same time, improvements in communications technology, notably the Internet, enable the World Data Centers to devise additional ways to link with their users and distribute products. This technology also makes feasible the extension of the system into countries that heretofore have not played an active role. The WDC system today is evolving to meet these changing conditions. At the same time it must remain true to the ICSU principle of open, nondiscriminatory access to the system by scientists in all countries.

The 1996 Guide to the World Data Center System thus appears at a time when the system is undergoing considerable evolution. That evolution was begun under the leadership of Stan Ruttenberg, whose energy and vision have put new life into the ICSU Panel on World Data Centers. The editor of the Guide, Henry Rishbeth, sparked the creation of this new edition, and has done nearly all the work in preparing it for publication. In addition, Henry has contributed many years of service to the WDC System as the Panel Secretary. I am pleased to have this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contributions of Stan and Henry and to thank them.

FERRIS WEBSTER Chairman, ICSU Panel on World Data Centers

Editor's Note

It has been my privilege to edit this completely revised version of the Guide to theWorld Data Center System. Much has changed since the original Guide was published for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958. The Guide has served scientists well for four decades, but this 1996 editionthe sixthmay well be the last to be printed in traditional form. It will be placed on the Worldwide Web, where it can be updated electronically. Regular updating is essential, since the WDC system is constantly changing and a printed book captures only a snapshot in time.

I am very grateful to all my colleagues in the WDC community, which embraces many nations and several fields of science, for their help in this rewarding task. I have received help from many Directors and staff of WDCs and from my fellow members of the ICSU Panel, especially Stan Ruttenberg for supervising the production of the Guide in Boulder. Thanks are due to Susan McLean and Joy Ikelman of the National Geophysical Data Center for their help in producing this Guide, and also maintaining the Worldwide Web version.

HENRY RISHBETH Southampton, England

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