Thursday, August 27, 2009

WSJ article: preservation of electronic scientific data

Today's online edition of the Wall Street Journal includes a lengthy and perceptive article on the challenges of preserving scientific data. It succinctly highlights how scientists' increasing reliance on e-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, and other online collaborative tools and the emergence of computer-dependent tools and protocols that generate vast quantities of data will make it harder for future scientists to build upon their work. It also emphasizes that the challenge of preserving electronic scientific data is forcing a lot of people to take on new roles: "The problem is forcing historians to become scientists, and scientists to become archivists and curators."

Of course, scientists have for some time been aware of the need to preserve electronic data and the difficulty of doing so: the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, not archivists or librarians, spearheaded the development of the Open Archival Information System Reference Model. However, it's good to see that awareness of the problem is gradually spreading beyond the confines of the cultural heritage and scientific communities.

A nice little slideshow highlighting nine "enormous digital archives," among them the Internet Archive among them, appears at the end of the article.

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