Friday, October 30, 2015

Vital information could be lost in 'digital dark age' warns professor

Vital information could be lost in 'digital dark age' warns professor. Sarah Knapton. The Telegraph. 11 Oct 2015.
     Professor David Garner, former president of the Royal Society for Chemistry, said that the world faces an information 'dark age' because so much information is stored digitally, and that "wherever possible, scientific data should be printed out and kept in paper archives to avoid crucial research being lost to future generations." Other quotes from the article are:
  • “Digital storage is great and has put knowledge in an instantly accessible form, but things really need to be backed up in paper formats as well. In my own lifetime I have experienced not being able to access information any longer because the formats are now out of date. I am not a luddite, and I think the internet is fantastic. But while it’s great to have a Plan A, we really need to have a Plan B. It’s really important that we have accessible paper archives. We risk a lot of information being lost without adequate paper copies."
  • Digital materials are especially vulnerable to loss and destruction because they are stored on fragile magnetic and optical media which can deteriorate and can easily be damaged by exposure to heat, humidity, and short circuits.
  • While a book can be left on a shelf for hundreds of years with little damage, information can suffer ‘bit rot’ where it can no longer be accessed. And opening each file manually to save it in a readable form would never be possible.
  • "Long term accessibility of data was not really taken into account in the 1980s and 1990s in the way it is now and I am delighted that there are a number of initiatives underway for the long term preservation of digital data," added Prof Garner.

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