M Mokrane*
*WDS International Programme Office, Tokyo, Japan


The World Data System (WDS) is an Interdisciplinary Body of the International Council for Science (ICSU) created in 2008. ICSU-WDS builds on the 50+ year legacy of its predecessor bodies established by ICSU to manage data generated by the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958). It became clear after the International Polar Year (2007–2008) that these bodies were not able to respond fully to modern data needs, and they were thus replaced by the ICSU World Data System in 2009.

The mission of the World Data System is to support ICSU's vision by promoting long-term stewardship of, and universal and equitable access to, quality-assured scientific data and data services, products, and information across a range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences, and the humanities. ICSU-WDS aims to facilitate scientific research under the ICSU umbrella by coordinating and supporting trusted scientific data services for the provision, use, and preservation of relevant datasets, while strengthening their links with the research community.

The strategy for achieving these objectives is outlined in the current five-year Strategic Plan 2014–2018, and includes three major targets:

  1. Improve the trust in and quality of open Scientific Data Services
  2. Nurture active disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific data services communities
  3. 1Make trusted data services an integral part of international collaborative scientific research
Member Organizations of ICSU-WDS are from wide-ranging fields and constitute the building blocks of a worldwide 'community of excellence' for scientific data. Not only do these Members participate towards advancing WDS goals; their data holdings, services, and products are the cornerstone of the federated data system.

As of May 2017, ICSU-WDS had 107 Member Organizations in four categories: 69 Regular Members (Organizations that are data stewards and/or data analysis services), 11 Network Members (Umbrella bodies representing groups of data stewardship organizations and/or data analysis services.), 9 Partner Members (Organizations that contribute support or funding to ICSU-WDS and/or WDS Members), and 18 Associate Members (Organizations that are interested in the WDS endeavour but do not contribute direct funding or other material support.)

Member Organizations are formally accredited into ICSU-WDS by the WDS Scientific Committee, who safeguard the trustworthiness of ICSU-WDS by certifying Regular and Network Members according to internationally recognized standards. Data sharing enables reuse of data and ultimately makes science more transparent. To ensure the quality and usability of shared data and to provide long-term preservation and access, sustainable data services are key components of scientific infrastructure. However, it is vital to guarantee the trustworthiness of a service to perform these functions, and certification by an appropriate authority is fundamental in promoting confidence in shared data resources. Partners and Associates are co-opted.

ICSU-WDS brings its Member Organizations together to coordinate their activities and through that process, to achieve an overall capability that transcends individual ones. Membership also increases exposure to potential users and collaborators internationally. It demonstrates that the Member Organizations have a strong and tangible commitment to open data sharing, data and service quality, and data preservation - all of which are increasingly considered prime requirements by science funders and are high on policymakers’ agendas since they benefit the scientific community, economy, and society in general.

The Research Data Alliance and ICSU's Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) are two of the closest WDS collaborating and partner organizations. The three organizations have different but complementary foci and strengths, and have strong partnerships such as the International Data Week and SciDataCon. Together with other partners they are committed to advance data practices and science faster and further, and thus increase the benefit of research data for society.