Rapid change demands rapid data access. We envision a system where investigators quickly expose their data to the world and share them, without restriction, through open protocols on the internet. A single giant, central archive is not practical for all polar data held around the world. Instead, we seek a collaborative, virtual space, where scientific data and information could be shared ethically and with minimal constraints. Inspired by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 that established the Antarctic as a global commons to generate greater scientific understanding, the Polar Information Commons (PIC) serves as an open, virtual repository for vital scientific data and information.
An international network of scientific and data management organizations concerned with the scientific quality, integrity, and stewardship of data is developing the PIC under the auspices of the International Council for Science's Committee on Data CODATA. The PIC utilizes the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data, including establishment of community norms to encourage appropriate contributions to and use of PIC content. Data descriptions (metadata) are not necessarily registered in formal repositories or catalogues. They may simply be exposed to search engines or broadcast through syndication services such as RSS or Atom. The data are labelled or branded as part of the PIC and are, therefore, open for use without restriction. The PIC label also alerts data centers around the world to new polar data. These data centers then assess and acquire important data for formal archiving, curation, and access through national and global data systems. The intent is to enable rapid data access without qualification, while establishing a process for long-term preservation and stewardship of critical data.
This paper will review the ethical and legal basis for sharing polar data and information, as well as the technologies being employed to make the PIC a reality.