The ICSU World Data Centers



Data, data. Who's got the data? Why can't I find them? If I do find them, why can't I get them? If I do get them, why is the format wrong? Why are they printed or published instead of in a computer-readable medium? Why is it so expensive to get the excerpt I want instead of 1,000 tapes? Why is the documentation missing or incomplete? Why do we spend good science money on data management? What are the National and World Data centers anyway? What can they do for me?

There are two responses to these questions—“just because,” or “do you want the short answer or the long answer?” Just because is an unsatisfactory answer, yet it contains a kernel of truth. The long story is sure to glaze the eyes of the reader over, so I will attempt a short discussion. Apologies for tracing ground known to some of you, and for touches of whimsy. An exegesis of data matters calls for imaginative treatment to get your attention at the start to induce you, gentle reader, to continue.