One of the major changes in research mode in Environmental Sciences over the last ten years has been the shift towards data harmonization and compilation on a global basis. This is in response both to the opportunities afforded by increased computing power and to the needs imposed by the emerging research field of Global Change. Part of the remit of PAGES is to foster data sharing and management at a global level through the World Data Center (WDC-A) for Paleoclimatology. The value and effectiveness of such a global, multi-proxy data base rests on many kinds of effort and depends on success in several domains. In a field as specialised, complex and diverse as palynology, maintenance and enhancement of data quality depends on skilled evaluation. Reconciling differing levels of taxonomic resolution, regionally differentiated floras and taxonomic nomenclature calls for care, knowledge and a high level of responsibility. Ultimately, the quality of global data bases depends on this effort at the regional and specialist level. Data base development and management rests not only on expertise but on a sustained relationship of mutual trust among all participants, those who mainly contribute to, those who manage and those who most often use the growing data resource.This lends a cumulative value to both the data and human investments intrinsic in a growing data base. In all these respects, the European Pollen Data Base has been in the forefront of developments. It serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved through carefully focused effort and its success so far reinforces the need to recognise such initiatives as vital components of global change research that require sustained support.