Monthly Archives: February 2014

DAR-TG Goes to India (Twice)

This blog post comes from Elizabeth Griffin, chair of the CODATA Data at Risk Task Group.

header_bgPursuing its objective to raise awareness of the imperative scientific need to find, rescue and digitize pre-digital observations for the benefit of research into long-term changes in the natural world, the Data At Risk Task Group (DAR-TG) went east recently to lead a Panel Discussion at the conference on Digital Preservation and Development of Trusted Digital Repositories held in New Delhi. Organized jointly by the UK-based Alliance for Permanent Access and the Indian Centre of Excellence for Digital Preservation, the meeting drew participants from around the world as well as from the length and breadth of India. The composition of the Panel was an even match of western-based representatives and Indian counterparts, and gelled remarkably well in the circumstances. The Panel offered answers to pre-set questions, and took more from the floor, on themes that challenged the TG’s declared need for recovering and digitizing historic data, and its assumptions that projects so geared would be conducted successfully. We debated how to convince skeptics of the scientific value of spending resources on heritage data, what results might be expected by incorporating them into modern research, and what major problems could be foreseen and how to tackle them. The unanimous response was examples, examples, examples – cite projects that returned new scientific knowledge which could not have been gained by any other means. Playing the devil’s advocate is a powerful method of reinforcing determination, and DAR-TG has since been happy to recruit one of the Indian panelists and one of the audience as TG members. A conference delegate from South Africa has also joined the TG.

Where does India stand in regard to endangered historic scientific data? More pertinently, perhaps, one should ask how well a country of such size, diversity and infrastructural challenges can dedicate time and resources into what may seem to be a rather esoteric pursuit. Yet as the contributions to the main conference amply demonstrated, India is making impressive strides towards establishing standards and practices in things digital at formal levels, though it was harder to judge commitment to physical data recovery since actual data-gatherers were in something of a minority at such a meeting. The data-rescue projects that were presented revealed the same problems of dedicated funding and recognition that undermine corresponding projects in the so-called developed world, and in India they are of course additionally complicated by the size of the tasks, even by the sheer geographical diversity to be spanned.

SDC2014One step at a time is always sound advice in such circumstances, and DAR-TG plans to heed that advice at SciDataCon 2014 in New Delhi next November (held jointly with CODATA’s own General Assembly), where it hopes to organize a Session dedicated to the rescue of pre-digital data in India, calling on representatives of Indian scientific teams (already identified by our new member from Lucknow University) to describe prevailing situations in their own fields and seeking to formulate a plan for a national data-rescue initiative. Such a session will provide a clearer picture of the amounts and kinds of pre-digital data in India that definitely need to be recovered, some idea of the priorities to be attached to them, and the potential for doing so at government, university or private levels.

India also has vast tracts of pre-digital cultural data extending back across more than 5 millennia, covering a huge range of climatic conditions and embracing not only distinct regional cultures but also four major world religions. It could be argued that ancient scripts and pictures are just as much in need of cataloguing and protecting as are pre-digital scientific records, but in the face of such enormous challenges DAR-TG will do well to concentrate on scientific areas and media that are familiar, in the hope that the examples that are set and the good results that are achieved will feed into national programmes to improve the preservation and dissemination prospects of its cultural assets too.

CODATA Task Group on Anthropometric Data and Engineering: recent activities

Daisy with CyberwareScanner web colour profileThis blog post is written by Daisy Veitch, co-chair of the CODATA Anthropometric Data and Engineering and founder/CEO of SHARP Dummies.

The objective of the CODATA Task Group on Anthropometric Data and Engineering and the WEAR (World Engineering Anthropometry Resource) project is to promote distribution and development of knowledge in anthropometry and to contribute to the improvement of health and safety of all people.

In August 2009 in Beijing a web portal was opened by the president of the International Ergonomics Association that gives access to anthropometric data and tools to use it. This was co-sponsored by CODATA. The initial site contains a limited set. Having said that the ‘limited set’ contains about 130 datasets including the North American portion of the CAESAR database (which is the most comprehensive, high quality anthropometric dataset ever collected). The plan is to continue to expand the data and tools over the years.

3D Body ScanningA WEAR/CODATA meeting was held on 18 November 2013 in Long Beach, California, USA. The participants also attended the 3D body scanning conference held in Long Beach on 19-20 November 2013, where two WEAR sessions were also held.

During the 18th November meeting, WEAR members discussed the possibility of changing membership categories, particularly to make it easier for students to be a part of the organization, they also looked at a viable social media strategy to ensure that WEAR is able to spread information easily on the web and provide a more accessible platform for those retrieving WEAR data. We encourage people to sign up for newsletters at Additionally, those present discussed the new datasets which were added to the WEAR portal and made plans for future uploads. WEAR representatives appointed new officers and made plans to attend the CODATA meeting in India in 2014, SciDataCon 2014.

conferenceThe 3D body scanning conference held on 19-20th November 2013 and its parallel exhibition was held to fulfil the demand for an international event focused on 3D human body scanning technologies, 3D human body measurement methods and applications.

This event is a mixed technical and sales platform dedicated to these specific fields that reaches a very broad cross- disciplinary audience. In the last two decades, 3D scanning technologies developed in other industrial sectors were successfully applied to the measurement and scanning of the human body. Methods and techniques are continuously ameliorated, more efficient and performing scanning systems are produced every year and new software tools are developed unceasingly. Development drivers include price, so there is an ever increasing need to develop awareness about quality assurance and as well as quality tools themselves.  The international conference and exhibition on 3D body scanning technologies serves as a platform for the information on the latest developments and interesting applications in various sectors, as well as, for building relationships and exchanging ideas between manufacturers, users, developers and researchers from around the world.

Professor Kath Robinette, Co-Chair of this CODATA task group was the keynote speaker – The keynote speech highlighted that new technology is valued for reasons including that it looks impressive, that it enables us to do something better or cheaper, that it is easier to use and that it enables us to do something we couldn’t do before. However, there was a key lesson to be examined among these points. Dr Robinette identified that just because a technology is newer, it does not automatically make it better than the older technology.

Dr Robinette further explored anthropometric technology and its evolution during her presentation and then discussed where the goals and aims which are associated with 3D scanning are directing the science of anthropometry. It was explained that although 3D modelling is a highly effective enabler in determining shape, volume and contours, 1D instruments like the tape measure are still markedly superior over 3D imaging in terms of measurements like circumference. The speech sent the message that although 3D imaging is a crucial implement to use to enhance studies in the field of anthropometry, it is not yet enhanced enough to disregard the importance of getting information from multiple sources including 1D traditional measurement. The most effective way of gaining accurate models is achieved through the use of multiple data collection including fit data.  She said that made-to-measure, size prediction from scans, virtual try-on models, digitial human models and similar technologies continue to be developed and fail.  Each going out of business eventually.  Why?  Because they do not include fit measurements.  You need to measure fit if you want to predict it and the future of anthropometry needs to include fit measurements.  She gave many examples and illustrations about why fit knowledge is essential to success. Dr Robinette’s abstract can be found here for interested parties: 3D Body Scanning, Past and Future.

During the CODATA/WEAR meeting some issues regarding global sizing were highlighted, particularly that of creating a universal sizing system. Members acknowledged the difficulty of sharing products designed for different ethnic populations especially from the fit and the safety perspective. It was suggested that the standardizing data collection for body size and shape and collecting matching fit metrics for these populations would be very desirable to make fit predictions. In essence we want to add fit mapping to national anthropometric surveys and standardize the data collection process to enable effective global sharing.  A fit mapping project has been proposed so that populations can be compared and predictions could be made more accurately. A base for this is the Sizing Up Australia project. SDC2014Thanks in part to CODATA support, the Global Fit Map group will have its first meeting in Oklahoma City in March of this year, then meet again in India in 2014 at the CODATA-WDS Conference, SciDataCon 2014. Participants will include Australia, Brazil, India, Korea, Nigeria and USA.
Without the help of CODATA, WEAR would never be able to share high quality anthropometric data with members all over the world. This collaboration is fantastic because it makes our information accessible with the click of a button. Our involvement with CODATA will ensure that anthropometric data is readily available to access, and encourage more involvement with our work.


The WEAR/CODATA partnership provides a platform where the task group can share a cohesive goal for leading researchers to collaborate together. It also allows experts to work on projects as a team, which is excellent because the workload for researchers is often too large for just one person. This ensures that expert information is shared and a high standard of work is maintained. The most recent success of the WEAR/CODATA collaboration is the publication of Sizing Up Australia – The Next Step; a report which focuses on the evidence and method for developing and conducting the first Australian Body Sizing Survey. Thanks to CODATA, this has led to a potential international survey about body sizing and fit mapping referred to earlier. The WEAR/CODATA platform has not only brought people together, it has created action. It has enabled us to disseminate data, but more importantly it is influencing how and what data is collected throughout the world.

CODATA Mourns Vice-President Fedor Kuznetsov


Fedor Kuznetsov at the CODATA 2012 Conference

It is with considerable regret that the CODATA community learnt of the death of Academician and CODATA Vice-President, Professor Fedor Kuznetsov on 4 February 2014.  Fedor Kuznetsov was a long-standing and committed servant of CODATA (ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology): he made a substantial contribution to CODATA and to international scientific collaboration around data issues.

Fedor Kuznetsov was a world-class scientist, respected internationally for his scientific and technical contributions. His abilities as an administrator and successful Director of the Nikolaev Institute of Inorganic Chemistry (NIIC), Novosibirsk, led this institute to achieve world-wide renown.  He played important roles in the business of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and also in the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.

For several decades, Fedor worked very hard to develop international cooperation whether bilaterally or multilaterally through organizations like the Asia Pacific Academy of Materials, which he had served as a founding member as well as President.

Through CODATA, he made significant contributions to such international collaboration, through his participation in the Executive Committee, as Vice-President and by establishing various Task Groups on Nanotechnology and Gas Hydrates.  In 1984 he was a member of the CODATA Industrial Data Commission, established ‘to guide the Executive Committee on the data needs of industry’. [See CODATA@45 Years, p. 25]  In 1996 he was elected Vice-President of CODATA.  He served on the Executive Committee from 2004 to 2010 and was elected Vice-President for a second time in 2010.

As Director of the NIIC, Fedor led ‘a strong program in several areas of materials science: theoretical modeling; searching for new micro-electronic materials; developing quantitative methods for analyzing inorganic materials; and pursuing novel preparation techniques. A prominent physical chemist and materials scientist, he was instrumental in the development of a data bank on properties of electronic technology materials.’ [See CODATA@45 Years, p. 31]

From 2000 he chaired the CODATA Task Group on Data for Natural Gas Hydrates, which had the objective of developing a comprehensive information system on all aspects of these substances’.  The Group aimed to find ‘ways to use modern information technologies for data and knowledge sharing to: achieve understanding of the role of natural gas hydrates in natural processes; find rational ways of exploiting gas hydrates resources; and prevent hazards resulting from uncontrolled eruptions of gases from gas hydrates deposits. Having received an ICSU grant as a measure of the importance of their work, the Group developed and published the Gas Hydrate Markup Language (GHML) in 2006 with a view to facilitating the interchange of rapidly increasing amounts of gas hydrate data among researchers worldwide.’ [See CODATA@45 Years, p. 38]

Fedor03CODATA Past President Krishan Lal writes:

For me, Fedor was a long standing close friend for the last more than three decades. We successfully pursued collaborative research in some of the most advanced areas and jointly organized bilateral as well as international conferences in Russia and India. His scientific calibre and desire to link strong groups for ambitious projects was very remarkable.

Only last year the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) elected him as a Foreign Fellow. He was one of the four Foreign Fellows elected in 2013, including one Nobel Laureate. I had suggested to him to come to India in December to participate in our Anniversary meeting, but he promised to visit us in 2014. Unfortunately this will not happen now.

On personal level I have lost one of my closest friends.

Former CODATA Executive Director, Kathleen Cass writes:

I was very saddened when I received the news that Fedor had passed away. Justifiably and deservedly so, many tributes have been paid this week to Fedor for his outstanding scientific achievements during his long professional career both within and beyond the CODATA community.

For me I will always remember first and foremost the personal attributes of Fedor. I admired and respected his ability to understand different cultures, his political astuteness and sensitivity, his skill at making people feel at ease with expressing their opinions—even more so if those opinions differed from those of Fedor and his clever and intellectual wit. Above all, I  admired Fedor’s strong conviction: if he truly believed in an activity he would professionally and eloquently defend it and successfully build support for the activity.

I recall with great affection and sincere appreciation his support to me during my years in CODATA.  In short I thank you, Fedor, for your friendship and it is this friendship that I will truly miss.

Fedor Kuznetsov will be remembered by his CODATA colleagues for his good humour and wit, his warm personal greetings, his insightful contributions to Executive Committee debates and his indefatigable attitude toward personal health issues when they arose periodically.  He will be sorely missed, but his wisdom and passion for CODATA and international data science will continue to inspire us.

The CODATA Executive Committee and Officers wish to express their profound regret at the passing of this distinguished, highly-esteemed colleague and friend.  Our condolences go to Fedor’s family and friends.

Open Data Policies Are Much More Economically Generative Than Closed Ones

During the recent GEO Plenary, an article appeared on SciDevNet that communicated the case for the importance of such data sharing initiatives.


Paul Uhlir, Director of the Board on Research Data and Information at the US National Academy of Sciences, and one of the CODATA Co-Chairs of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group

In the article, Paul Uhlir—one of the CODATA co-chairs of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group—makes the point that for developing countries, the belief that government data may represent a lucrative revenue stream is deeply misguided.’  Sometimes government and research data from developing countries is seen as a valuable commodity that can be monetized: ‘but, quite frankly, open [data] policies are much more economically generative than closed ones.  By hoarding the data they’re minimising massively its value for other uses and shooting themselves in the foot.’

This is particularly strongly the case for geospatial data.  As the article points out:

The potential of such data that incudes geographic positioning information, including satellite imagery, to aid fields such as disaster response, agriculture, conservation and city planning far outweighs any potential value from selling the information.

groads-v1-africaThe articles also highlights the work of the the CODATA Global Roads Task Group to create Open Access roads data set.

Although companies already provide accurate road maps, data cannot be extracted freely for other applications, limiting their use to navigation, or to commercial users with deep pockets.

By offering open-access information, gROADS allows the development sector, governments, civil society and researchers to conduct studies, plan services and develop new applications from the existing data sets.

Read the rest of the article at