This post comes from Elizabeth Griffin, chair of the Data at Risk Task Group
Over 50 of us were able to drop everything and get to NCAR in Boulder (CO, USA) for a 2-day Workshop on the Rescue of Data At Risk (defined as raw or meagerly-reduced data in non-electronic or primitive digital media and formats, often with separated or insufficient metadata, and all without promise of adequate preservation). We came from most quarters of the globe: Tasmania, South Africa, Ethiopia, India, Italy and England, as well as from Canada and the USA itself. Graciously hosted by NCAR at its Center Green site, and generously sponsored by the RDA, Elsevier and the Sloan Foundation, this Workshop was without doubt a scene of Work, demanding the full attention of everyone through 5 organized 1-hour break-out sessions to discuss the 5 themes of the meeting: (1) locating (and often rescuing) “at risk” data, (2) preserving them for the longer term, (3) digitizing them, (4) adding (and preserving) necessary metadata, and (5) depositing and disseminating the end products appropriately. Oral case studies and reports set the individual scenes, and numerous posters provided additional thought-provoking materials. We all “worked”, and we all scrutinized what was being offered before “shopping”, and at the end of the two days our boldness had seen true growth.
Parallel responses to questions posed to each break-out group are now furnishing input to on-line Guidelines for Rescuing Data At Risk, which DAR-TG will produce, and prompted ideas for the reference handbook (just a little further down the line) which will also be prepared.
Our determination to “MAke Things Happen” also engendered commitments (1) to run sub-TG groups with specific foci on (a) metadata, (b) catalogues of at-risk data rescued or to-be rescued and (c) the location and preservation of hardware (aka tape-readers and their ilk) and science- specific software, (2) to organize “regional” workshops as a means to engage the great many other interested parties which are also “out there”, and (3) to fund and appoint an early-career Fellow to coordinate a TG-wide investigation of a specific them (tbd, possibly “Water in the World”) where just about every facet of “at-risk” data, from the earth’s atmosphere down to its fossils, has invaluable evidence to contribute.
These plans will of course take time and effort, and some of them resources too, and even formulating them was itself quite exhausting (despite the scrumptious refreshments and meals created and served by the bountiful UCAR kitchen), but our “demonstration” proved without doubt that consolidating and proliferating our re-channelled ideas and objectives will and must be MAde To Happen. The ultimate humanitarian benefits, even just in the domain of meteorology in tropical countries, as featured in the heart-rending details given by Rick Crouthamel’s Public Lecture on “A World Heritage in Peril”, will be more than ample rewards.
We bolder on!