The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), host institute of the WoRMS database, is now officially a World Data Centre.
by Appeltans, Ward
VLIZ was awarded this honour and saw its efforts in managing marine data since 2000 rewarded with an international certification within the World Data System of the International Council for Science (ICSU). VLIZ is now an official member of a global network of 28 world data centres, of which only 4 deal with marine data management.
Within these partnerships VLIZ has realised, among other initiatives, two projects with a global coverage: (1) the development and hosting of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS: http://www.marinespecies.org), the authoritative global taxonomic list of unique marine animal and –plant species names; and (2) the implementation of a real-time database with sea level data of 531 places on earth (the Sea Level Monitoring Facility of the Global Sea Level Observing System: http://www.ioc-sealevelmonitoring.org ). The latter has proved its worth after the earth quakes in Chile (27 February 2010) and Japan (11 March 2011).
The International Council for Science (ICSU: http://www.icsu.org) that coordinates the new World Data System, has its head quarters in Paris. It strengthen international science for the benefit of society by networking 120 National Scientific Members from 141 countries and 30 international Scientific Unions, and by organizing the International Polar Year (IPY), the biodiversity program Diversitas and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
After having entrusted data to a few isolated centralized data centres worldwide for fifty years, ICSU decided to create a distributed world data system in 2008 (World Data System: http://www.icsu-wds.org/). In this way, ICSU is able to make a better use of new Internet technologies and distribute the responsibilities in the field of management and exchange of scientific information between multiple data centres – conforming to strict quality standards – around the world. This involves multidisciplinary earth observation data, with wide geographic coverage: measurements by scientists, but also by satellites, sensors, buoys of all kinds, etc. Out of the 28 approved WDC's, 4 relate to marine data management, including VLIZ.
The membership of the VLIZ data centre as a component within the WDS has been subject of a rigorous evaluation. And that’s how the assessment committee has put it in words: “VLIZ has a well organized data centre with an international reputation and a good scientific background. VLIZ has a very serious approach to data collection, management, curation and distribution”.
The Flanders Marine Institute was established in 1999 by the Flemish government, the province of West-Flanders and the Fund for Scientific Research and since then plays a vital supporting and informative role in the field of the marine and coastal sciences in Belgium and abroad.
VLIZ owes the certification to the cooperation within 15 international working groups and networks, including the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission van UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO: http://ioc-unesco.org), the Census of Marine Life (CoML: http://www.coml.org), the bio-geographic information system OBIS (http://www.iobis.org) and the Society for the Management of Electronic Biodiversity Data (SMEBD: http://www.smebd.eu).