Is data the new gold? Data is certainly valuable, and properly shared, it can transform our lives through improved disaster management prediction, health care, and environmental stewardship. But unlike gold or other commodities, data is inexhaustible. It is the rich and growing renewable resource of the information age and with proper management, data can be harnessed to our advantage.

Top leaders from the White House and our nation’s science agencies understand the importance of data management. From September 16-18, they are gathering at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington as part of a major meeting of the international Research Data Alliance (RDA).  Francine Berman, distinguished professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is co-chair of the RDA Council and opened the conference.

The RDA is supported by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as financial support from the European Commission and the Australian government. RDA was officially launched in March 2013 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Since that time, membership has grown to more than 1,200 international researchers and data experts from 52 countries who focus on the development and adoption of common tools, harmonized standards, and infrastructure needed for data sharing by practicing researchers, as well as the application of policy and best practices to facilitate data-driven research. RDA members work across dozens of disciplines to tackle data topics pertaining to global agricultural research and innovation, history and ethnography, human health, and others.

“Science is global. Researchers all over the world are addressing today’s toughest problems by combining data from many sources in innovative ways,” said Berman. “The international Research Data Alliance community builds infrastructure that scientists can use to share and exchange data, create new discoveries, and facilitate innovation.”

More than 400 participants from 22 countries are expected to attend. Speakers include: Farnam Jahanian, assistant director of the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Technology & Innovation Division; Mark Suskin, deputy director of the NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure; and Michael Stebbins, assistant director of the Science Division of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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