The 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences

The 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences

Organised by IEDA and Elsevier

Revealing our melting past: Rescuing historical snow and ice data wins the 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences

We proudly announce the winner of the 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences. The award — a stone trophy and $ 5,000 —was presented on 15 December 2016 to ‘Revealing our melting past: Rescuing historical snow and ice data’ at a Town Hall session during the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, USA and reported on by EOS.

The wining project was developed by the University of Colorado Boulder to rescue, enhance access to, and provide a sustainable future for the Roger G. Barry Archive at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, with a team consisting of Jack Maness, Michael Dulock, Walker Sampson, Athea Merredyth, Gloria Hicks (all University of Colorado Boulder), Allaina Wallace (Denver Botanic Gardens), Ruth Duerr (Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Florence Fetterer (National Snow and Ice Data Center).

The project first started over fifteen years ago when the need to safeguard important and irretrievable data in a sustainable manner for future researchers about the extent of past glaciations was first recognised. Materials are diverse and date from 1850 to the present day: over 20,000 prints, over 100,000 images on microfilm, 1,400 glass plates, 1,600 slides, over 100 cubic feet of manuscript material (including hand-written 19th century exploration diaries and observational data) and over 8,000 ice charts are included in the archive.

Although the data is primarily of interest to researchers in glaciology, geomorphology, geophysics, and other earth and environmental sciences, some of the photographs in the collection have been made available to a much wider audience, for example in text books, children’s books and by filmmakers to demonstrate the effect of climate change on the earth’s frozen regions. There is still much work to do and further rescue efforts are necessary to ensure the archive’s long term viability as a resource for research communities interested in the cryosphere.

Next to the main award, two projects were singled out for Honorary Mention:

  • Atlantic Canada’s Biological Data for Ecosystem Planning and Decision-making: Opening Access and Increasing Reuse” by Andrew Sherin, Alexi Baccardax Westcott, Mary Kennedy, Gerhard Pohle, Lou Van Guelpen, Angela Douglas, Bruce Hatcher and Jeff McKenna. The purpose of this project was to establish a partnership of organizations holding estuarine biological data committed to sharing their data using Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), with a focus on data that will support Atlantic Ecosystem Initiative (AEI) program priorities in habitat and biodiversity and ecosystem based management in Atlantic Canada
  • Global Transmissometer Database” by Wilford D. Gardner, Alexey Mishonov and Mary Jo Richardson. The goal of this project is to rescue 40 years of data collected during field expeditions in the World Ocean from large international collaborations, and convert the data from a variety of storage media to a uniform, accessible, electronic data base.

See the full list of submissions

All submissions were assessed by a cross-disciplinary panel of judges

  • Paolo Diviacco, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale, Italy
  • Helen Glaves, British Geological Survey, UK
  • Denise Hills, Geological Survey of Alabama, USA
  • Kerstin Lehnert, Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance (IEDA), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, USA
  • Sean Toczko, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan
  • Lesley Wyborn, National Computational Infrastructure, Australian National University, Australia
  • Lynn Yarmey, Research Data Alliance
  • Leslie Hsu, US Geological Survey

International Data Rescue Award

Pictured (left to right) Alexey Mishonov, University of Maryland, receiving an Honorable Mention; Leslie Hsu, US Geological Survey; Kerstin Lehnert, Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance, Ruth Duerr, Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, receiving the award; Denise Hills, Geological Survey of Alabama; Helen Glaves, British Geological Survey; Dan Lovegrove, Elsevier; Lesley Wyborn, National Computational Infrastructure, Australian National University, Australia

About the Award

The International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences was created to improve prospects for preservation and access of research data, particularly of dark data, and share the varied ways that these data are being processed, stored, and used. The contest invited members of the international geosciences and related communities to submit written descriptions of projects that are based on, or substantially involve, the recovery and re-use of scientific data that were not initially accessible for research. An important consideration is that these datasets are placed into recognized, preferably certified, data repositories and are readily accessible to other researchers for easy re-use.

Lack of access may be due to the nature of the formatting (e.g., analogue data, magnetic tapes that lack format description) or the nature of the data curation and/or organization (e.g., no formal database repository, no backup), such that those data cannot be shared. Consequently, the progress of research suffers unless extra steps are taken to recover the data or transform them to a dependable electronic media.

Submissions were specifically encouraged from groups or individuals who have developed and completed projects that:

  • digitized content that was formerly available only in an analogue or an obsolete electronic format, possibly including the addition of rich metadata to make the content more easily accessible and re-usable in recognized repositories, or/and
  • developed data standards, tools and processes that facilitate and improve the ingestion of research data into sustainable, recognized open access databases and repositories.

What are we trying to accomplish with the Award?

The International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences was created to raise awareness of the importance of securing access to science's older research data, particularly those with poor preservation outlook or fragile storage conditions, and to urge efforts towards creating robust electronic datasets that can be shared globally via recognized repositories. Sharing stories about the successful recovery of such datasets will demonstrate the unquestionable value which the older data represent as complements to more modern ones, and will encourage the wider pursuit of rescue efforts.

The 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences aims to…

  • draw attention to the high importance which research attaches to its legacy data, particularly in the field of geosciences where physical conditions change,
  • showcase the breadth, depth and diversity of initiatives that can be adopted for recovering and re-using those older research data.
  • promote recognition of specific efforts, and encourages inter-disciplinary discussions, about tools and methods that can assist in the rescue of all such data from oblivion.
  • stimulate the sharing of knowledge, tools and standards for making research data accessible and re-usable across various science domains, including the best practice of placing data in certified repositories.

Need more information? Please contact one of the two organisers:
Dan Lovegrove
Publisher, Earth Sciences, Elsevier
Kerstin Lehnert
Director, Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance