Facilitating Stewardship of Data on a Global Scale: The World Data System’s New International Technology Office

blog arrowPosted on: Mar 7, 2019

Posted by: Laura Gerlitz, RDC Intern and Benoit Pirenne, Director of User Engagement, Ocean Networks Canada


This year, the International Science Council’s World Data System (ISC-WDS) announced that its newly created International Technology Office (ITO) will be hosted in Victoria, BC, by a Canadian consortium consisting of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), NRC’s Canadian Astronomy Data Centre, and the University of Waterloo’s Canadian Cryospheric Information Network/Polar Data Catalogue. Dr. Karen Payne will be joining the University of Victoria and ONC to take the helm of the ITO. The Office will manage, coordinate, and deliver WDS products and services to its members and other international organizations.

The placement of the inaugural office in Victoria gives the Canadian RDM community an opportunity to show leadership in scientific data services, and for Canadians, the WDS-ITO provides two key values to our community. First, a context to bring Canadian data repositories together to define best practices, including certification like CoreTrustSeal. Secondly, development efforts to define international interoperability and discovery for data in repositories. This will help make Canadian research outputs more discoverable and accessible within and across domains, increasing the impact of individual researchers’ outputs.

Following the ISC’s 29th General Assembly in 2008, the WDS was created to support the ISC’s vision of facilitating and promoting equitable access to and long term stewardship of data and information in the natural and social sciences and humanities. The WDS is leading initiatives such as the certification of member organizations to recognize excellence in scientific data services. Given that such initiatives require stable, long-term resources – both human and technical – the WDS sent out a Call for Expressions of Interest in September 2017 to organizations to host the first International Technology Office. The Canadian consortium won the bid, and in March 2018 Ocean Networks Canada held an inaugural workshop at the University of Victoria to discuss the ITO’s mandate and scope of work.

Functions of the WDS ITO

As described in the WDS ITO’s Concept Note, the ITO’s five main functions are to:

  1. Manage persistent identifiers by hosting a Trusted Brokering Service.
  2. Coordinate the organization’s contribution to technical working groups.
  3. Collaborate with WDS Partners on “policy and funding focus formulation, development of technical concepts and promotion of standards, and identification of sustainability gaps in global research data infrastructure (GRDI).”
  4. “[Operate] and [manage] the contribution of ICS-WDS to operational systems that form part of the GRDI Knowledge Network, registries of GRDI components, and an aggregated metadata resource based on the holdings of its membership (Metadata Catalogue and Registry of Data Products and Services)”.
  5. “[Coordinate] the development and integration of components of GRDI with other major operational role-players.”

“The WDS-ITO is poised to play a leadership role in the development of sustainable data repositories and associated services for the international community”, said Dr. David Castle, VP Research at the University of Victoria.

Leading the WDS ITO

Dr. Payne joins ONC as the Associate Director for International Technology for the WDS-ITO. In this role, she is committed to helping research scientists make data and derived products widely available for the public good. Dr. Payne comes to the University of Victoria from the Division of Information Technology Outreach Services at the University of Georgia, where she managed cooperative agreements from the US Agency for International Development that support the international community’s disaster relief and recovery activities. A profile of Dr. Payne is available on the WDS website.

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