Proposed book on "Data Rescue"

03 Jul 2015
Groups audience: 

Dear Members (of both the RDA DAR and the CODATA DAR Groups):
First, our efforts are being strenuously represented at the meeting next week in Paris ("Our Common Future under Climate Change"). It will be a large gathering (over 2000), and a poster will urge the case to consider the need for heritage data as true guides to today's data (which are all we have to forecast the future). A blog about the issue has been posted:
In particular, it urges readers to sponsor what we are trying to accomplish. Our mission to raise awareness of the existence, and the need to recover suitably, analogue or primitive digital data, can only become effective if we have enough voices at enough meetings. Trying to attend appropriate conferences on a budget of 3000 euros per year between us all is just pretty dismal when it costs about 1200 euros just for one return flight from North America to Europe. As reported earlier, the RDA is supporting our planned Workshop for Data Rescue, to be held next year in Boulder (Colorado, USA), probably in October, and has allocated $1K US for us. In order to invite speakers, and to run the event appropriately, we'll need to double or triple that, and suggestions (or better still, actual offers!) would be splendid.
Working with the "Elsevier/IEDA International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences" earlier this year brought up the suggestion of a book - an actual hard-copy book - on "Data Rescue". Currently we have two science-based publishers interested (Elsevier and Springer), and the final choice is likely to define to some extent the format, content and slant of the product. Next month at a major astronomy congress a Springer bookstand will be managed by the same person who was my contact for a recent book on astronomy, so it is likely that I can get enough details from him to enable a sensible decision. (I expect Elsevier to have a bookstand there as well). If you have questions which you feel should guide that decision, please prime me soon!
In a sense - in a good sense - any book on Data Rescue will be - should be, in fact - out of date before it is published. However, the basic message is not going to become otiose very soon, and it is that message which the book will illustrate and convey. Below is the message which was circulated to the CODATA Data Rescue group before it was amalgamated with the RDA one:
I visualise a book with chapters that deal with different fields/sites of data to be rescued, and what individual initiatives have achieved to date.
The chapters could be grouped; geophysics is an umbrella for vulcanology, marine science, ionospheric exploration, and everything in between.
Bio-diversity can include all aspects of flora, fauna, vegetation and habitat, while disciplines like Polar Science contribute to most in different ways. Do we first design the Table of Contents and leave the topics open for volunteers? That could leave some gaps, but the book cannot hope to cover everything. If, instead, we encourage people to write what and when they can, we might then end up with duplicated topics, which would be a shame. Probably the best is something in between: those so inspired are encouraged to submit an outline of their field and sub-topics first. I don't think it matters whether we have 6 chapters or 16; variety will add to the strength of the message, and each will be unique with a distinctive story to tell. It will be up to the Editors to group and present the contributions in a way that adds relevance and enhances interdependence or relationships.
One important point: accounts must include failures, and describe the personal cost (leg-work, time, resources) that may have been experience. We don't want a book to contain only glowing success stories, or its message will be that everything is under control! The message to convey is, rather, that the topic is seriously important, urgently so in some fields (and why), and here are a few examples of what intelligent planning, persuasion, persistence or plain good luck have achieved in certain areas; they are brought to readers to encourage other efforts, not to foster complacency. We also want to raise the profile of the need and of the achieveability of success, yet not to damn it as too much effort for too little return.
In tandem with the book, as a series of intermittent follow-ups, there should be an on-line newsletter, both to update factual details in the book and to introduce new data rescue initiatives (as well as others not included in the book). It would be important to have some outline plan and manager in hand at the time of publication.
In this day and age, ebooks look easier to produce than hard-copy ones, but when all is said and done an ebook may not be readable in 5 years' time (maybe less!) whereas a hard-copy will last until the mice get at it.
Planning and organizing the production of a book like this will be well served by a small team of Editors.
So far, we have expressions of interest for chapters on Biodiversity (Anton Guentsch, Berlin-Dahlem Biodiversity Museum), high-energy physics (CERN) - both success and failure stories - and cartography. Items featured in the blog and the Climate Change Conference should also be included (most of the poster images are from IEDRO
(weather & climate), with contributions also from GODAR (oceanography) and astronomy.
Discussing some of the finer details of this project should be on the agenda for the proposed Session at RDA Plenary 6 in Paris (September). We do not yet know if our proposal for the session will be accepted, but it received very strong support from a number of other Interest Group Chairs. Of course, even if is not selected, the future of the book does not hang upon that meeting. The CODATA arm of Data Rescue is keen that the data rescue initiative focus on "deliverables", and the product of a book for all the word to read could be an excellent milestone along that route.
With kind regards,
Elizabeth Griffin=