Laying the Foundations for Global Transdisciplinary Integration of Data from the Physical Sciences and the Social Sciences

Dr Lesley Wyborn1, Dr  SImon  Cox2, Dr  Simon  Hodson3, Professor Geoffrey Boulton4

1National Computational Infrastructure, Acton, Australia,

2CSIRO Land and Water, Clayton, Australia,

3CODATA, Paris, France,

4University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


The internet of today gives researchers unprecedented online access to data, tools and compute resources and there is now an unrivaled opportunity for global research challenges to be addressed using distributed data and compute resources. More importantly, researchers from low to middle income countries can now participate.

However, varying and incompatible data standards are used across the different disciplines, and there is inadequate definition of scientific vocabularies needed to categorise observed phenomena across multiple languages, making scientific integration impossible. Hence integration of diverse data can generally only be achieved in closely allied fields.

The International Council for  Science (ICSU), CODATA, and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) are developing a project that will substantially increase the capacity of the international scientific community to achieve rigorous, transdisciplinary integration of data. This will be a long-term, decadal initiative that has the potential to fundamentally enhance the capacity of science in the 21st century.

The project involves 2 major strands of work:

Strand 1 involves projects related to 3-4 global challenges: infectious disease outbreaks , disaster risk reduction, resilient cities, and possibly agriculture. These were chosen as major issues where relevant data is accessible, where data integration is a tractable objective, and where there are existing communities of practice willing to collaborate.

Strand 2 will seek to support those disciplines of science that have not yet developed the standards (vocabularies, ontologies, etc) necessary for effective data integration. Formalisation of the discipline-specific vocabularies is an essential prerequisite for integration of data from different disciplines.


Lesley Wyborn is an Adjunct Fellow at both the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) Facility and the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU). She had over 40 year’s experience in scientific research and in transparent management of geoscientific data in Geoscience Australia. Her scientific research interests are in Mineral Systems analysis and in granite geochemistry whilst her current informatics interests are on enabling in situ analytics and in generating High Performance Data sets.  In 1994, she was one of the early adopters to develop Mineral Systems Analysis on determining the essential ingredients of various Australian mineral systems, and in converting those parameters into mappable ingredients that can be computationally modelled as part of regional scale fluid flow analysis to help understand why ore deposits form where they form and better target exploration programs. She is currently Chair of the Australian Academy of Science ‘Data for Science Committee’ and is on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Data Management Board. In 2014 she was awarded the Australian Government Public Service Medal for her long-term contributions to the management of Australian Public Sector Geoscience Data and in 2015, the Geological Society of America Career Achievement Award in Geoinformatics.


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