The purpose of Data Rescue events is to create copies of federal data on any number of subjects and preserve those in publicly available research libraries, typically at major research universities. Federal research data are particularly vulnerable to changes in government funding and administrative policy.
The issue has gained notice in recent weeks, but the problem can emerge at any time — data that exist only on a government website have been unavailable during government shutdowns, for example, and historic data can be lost if archival practices change over time.
During the government shutdown in 2013 online access to U.S. Census data was unavailable. Currently, animal welfare-related data from the US Department of Agriculture has been removed from its website and are now available only through Freedom of Information Act requests.
What: DataRescue-Twin Cities, an event to harvest government data for greater public access
When: Friday, February 24, 1:00-6:00 p.m. and Saturday, February 25, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Where: University of Minnesota, 50 Humphrey School, 301 19th Ave S, Minneapolis
Who: University of Minnesota Libraries and Liberal Arts Technologies & Innovation Services are hosting, along with scores of volunteer librarians, data nerds, and technologists
Librarians, technologists among volunteers for U event
The U of M event will involve volunteer librarians and archivists, data experts, researchers, scientists, and technologists. They will follow protocols established by DataRefuge, a public, collaborative project designed to address ways to safeguard federal scientific data. These protocols address collecting complete datasets, describing them accurately, and finding accessible archival homes for them.
This weekend’s volunteers will focus on data that is typically needed and used by U of M researchers on such topics as historical weather, air quality, climate and natural resources, crop production, and genome research.
Previous events have been held at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, Harvard, and elsewhere, and data have been collected from the websites of NOAA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others. Data that is gathered this weekend will be housed by the libraries of University of Pennsylvania, and will be easily accessible to any researcher.