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ICFA Study Group on Data Preservation and Long Term Analysis in High Energy Physics

I was very excited to see this report by the group DPEH , Data Preservation in High Energy Physics. It outlines recommendations for facility based repositories to take more control over the preservation of HEP data. This is a massive undertaking, but already three workshops have taken place to outline the roadmap to success. Read the report at http://arxiv.org/abs/0912.0255


Data Preservation in High Energy Physics
Authors: Dphep Study Group
(Submitted on 1 Dec 2009)

Abstract: Data from high-energy physics (HEP) experiments are collected with significant financial and human effort and are mostly unique. At the same time, HEP has no coherent strategy for data preservation and re-use. An inter-experimental Study Group on HEP data preservation and long-term analysis was convened at the end of 2008 and held two workshops, at DESY (January 2009) and SLAC (May 2009). This document is an intermediate report to the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA) of the reflections of this Study Group.

British Library warns of 'black hole' in history if websites and digital files are not preserved. "Historians of the future, citizens of the future, will find a black hole in the knowledge base of the 21st century." In addition to dead file formats and lost information from government websites, Lynne Brindley also points to the habits of individuals. "I call it personal digital disorder. Think of those thousands of digital photographs that lie hidden on our computers. Few store them, so those who come after us will not be able to look at them." Read on....

Hmmm. It's worth noting that there are several initiatives working toward preserving online information. The Internet Archive is first in my mind, a non-profit organization preserving the web, including their invaluable Way-Back Machine (good for a laugh at 90's web design).

But I think the immediate issue facing us is the loss of digital data. Data storage, even at the highest level of importance encompassing our scientific breakthroughs and historical archives, are already in danger due to their digitally-flimsy format. Here at the University, the libraries are working on the later issue by preserving textual-based records in our University Digital Conservancy.

Digital data, however, presents more of a problem. Security, format, lack of metadata standards, and size are just a few issues being addressed, slowing, with joint-discussion between the libraries, OVPR, OIT and various data centers, like MSI. If you have any comments on how to preserve scientific data sets for sharing, reuse, and discovery, whether for grant funding compliance or long-term preservation, please let me know! I'm a member of the libraries E-science and Data Stewardship Collaborative that is wrestling with some of these problems.

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