Science Archives in the 21st Century
The nation's colleges and universities represent an institutional community with a long-standing commitment to the archiving, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. Some academic institutions have been in continuous existence longer than the Federal government itself, and many have libraries and archives that have lasted longer than most Federal agencies. However, on more recent time scales, academic institutions have lagged in their ability to archive, preserve, and disseminate digital data. Collaboration between government and academic institutions therefore provides the opportunity to establish a sustainable long-term infrastructure for digital data preservation and services that is not subject to the vagaries of annual government budgets or policy decisions and that meets the rapidly evolving challenges of the digital age.
We report here on an ongoing experiment in collaboration between the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), one of the Distributed Active Archive Centers of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), and Columbia University's libraries and its Earth Institute to establish a long-term archive (LTA) for SEDAC data. The SEDAC LTA is constituted as a cooperative archive managed by a LTA Board with representatives from SEDAC, the libraries, and the Earth Institute. Although housed at present in the active archive, it is being designed and developed to operate independently of the active archive and to integrate in the long term into the University's emerging digital archiving infrastructure. In particular, the LTA is working to develop and implement a set of policies and procedures for long-term data stewardship of SEDAC's interdisciplinary digital data and information resources and a corresponding technical infrastructure that utilizes available standards and best practices. A major objective is to ensure that the archive is sustainable over time, independent of finite projects or the duration of current funding support, and is useful to present and future scientific and applied users.
This experiment is of high interest to the academic library community because it provides a test case for understanding the likely requirements and potential resources needed for stewardship of the large and rapidly growing quantity and diversity of digital data that universities are generating and responsible for. It is also of interest to the University's scientific faculty and staff, who are looking for efficient and sustainable ways to deal with their burgeoning data and information holdings. Finally, we believe that government agencies concerned about long-term data stewardship would benefit from the institutional longevity, expertise, and resources that the academic community could bring to this issue.