"Data At Risk" - what has happened, and where we are going.

15 Sep 2016
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Dear TG/IG members and Workshop participants,
Present status
On Sunday September 11 The CODATA General Meeting was held in Denver. The prime duties of that assembly are to elect members of Council for the next 2 years, and to select (by simple-majority voting) which of the proposed Task Groups are to be supported formally by CODATA. Voting members include the Council members, national representatives, and Scientific Union representatives. Each Task Group had 5 minutes to defend its application. Data At Risk, which has been strongly supported since 2010 and which was, even in Denver, very warmly spoken of, was not quite accepted (though I believe it was very close). That may leave us in a bit of a puzzle as to who we are and where we now go, but things have already moved beyond that point.
(Just how a democratic vote can exclude an activity that is very clearly successful can be a topic for discussion, but two factors came into play: (1) A new proposal for "Preserving Historic Data" was much less popular than Data At Risk, but may have become confused with ours in the minds of representatives who were new to the scene, and (2) my report was too positive! - meaning that it was dawning in many minds that we are no longer a small TG in need of harbouring by CODATA, but are launching ourselves anyway.)
To put the matter more clearly in perspective, CODATA officers were initially as baffled as DAR to know what to do, because CODATA is adamant that it retain a working link with Data At Risk. CODATA just doesn't have a suitable "pigeon-hole" for such an activity, so we are currently trying to build one. Though unfunded (as far as I can tell), that status will be more at a consultative level rather than as a kind-of senior TG beneath the control of CODATA. That much is good, from our perspective - it offers autonomy and freedom, while still allowing us the brand-name of "CODATA" - which is certainly better than nothing. At the same time, of course, our relationship with the RDA is unchanged, and we remain an RDA Interest Group. The affiliation which we have set up between the CODATA Task Group and the RDA Interest Group may need to be examined a little closely, but in principle it should hold as is. And we remain a formal CODATA Task Group until the end of this year.
The near Future
It was said several times during the Workshop that "Data At Risk" is on the point of moving ahead, and the negative vote of CODATA last Sunday is actually the most positive thing that could have happened! It demonstrated belief in us to be capable of leaving the CODATA "nest", of launching a bigger project, and going it alone. Just how we go it alone is the next subject for discussion, and the co-Chairs are engaging in that right now. We have many ideas; establishing a team of Patrons (which I believe was mentioned) is just one such, and is open-ended. Other ideas include exploring other contacts or relationships which have already appeared plausible, and making formal applications for funds to support a central management of DAR and to furnish us with reserve funds for planning future Workshops, etc.. Any suggestions regarding the latter, including contacts who might advise, would be very welcome.
DAR will be developing its own Website(s), and one in particular (which should be created very soon) will carry copies of the Workshop presentations and reports. Details of the link(s) will be circulated when ready.
We are very open to discussion about any aspects of the above, and would like to encourage your continuing connections with DAR and its objectives.
With kind regards,
Elizabeth Griffin and the present CODATA co-Chairs (Jane Greenberg, Bill Anderson)