Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The CODATA Mission: Preserving Scientific Data for the Future

The CODATA Mission: Preserving Scientific Data for the Future.Jeanne Kramer-Smyth. Spellbound Blog. February, 2013.
This is a post (and a link to the slides) about a session that was part of The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation conference. The aim was to describe the initiatives of the Data at Risk Task Group (DARTG), which is part of the International Council for Science Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA).

The goal is to preserve scientific data that is in danger of loss because they are not in modern electronic formats, or have particularly short shelf-life. The task group is seeking out sources of such data worldwide since many are irreplaceable for research into the long-term trends that occur in the natural world. One speaker talked about two forms of knowledge that we are concerned with here: the memory of the world and the forgettery of the world. Only the digital, or recently digitized, data can be recalled readily and made immediately accessible for research in the digital formats that research needs. The “forgettery of the world” is the analog records, ones that have been set aside for whatever reason, or put away for a long time and have become almost forgotten.  It the analog data which are considered to be “at risk” and which are the task group’s immediate concern.  Some of the early digital data are insufficiently described, or the format is out of date and unreadable, or the records cannot be located at all easily.

How can such “data at risk” be recovered and made useable?  An inventory website has been set up where one can report data-at-risk. The overarching goal is to build a research knowledge base that offers a complimentary combination of past, present and future records. Some data mentioned: Oceanographic; climate; satellite; and other scientific data sets; born digital maps. With digital preservation initiatives there is a lot of rhetoric, but not so much action. There have been many consultations, studies, reports and initiatives but not very much has translated into action. 

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