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Scientific Data Disappears At Alarming Rate, 80% Lost In Two Decades 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-today-gone-tomorrow dept.
cold fjord writes "UPI reports, 'Eighty percent of scientific data are lost within two decades, disappearing into old email addresses and obsolete storage devices, a Canadian study (abstract, article paywalled) indicated. The finding comes from a study tracking the accessibility of scientific data over time, conducted at the University of British Columbia. Researchers attempted to collect original research data from a random set of 516 studies published between 1991 and 2011. While all data sets were available two years after publication, the odds of obtaining the underlying data dropped by 17 per cent per year after that, they reported. "Publicly funded science generates an extraordinary amount of data each year," UBC visiting scholar Tim Vines said. "Much of these data are unique to a time and place, and is thus irreplaceable, and many other data sets are expensive to regenerate.' — More at The Vancouver Sun and Smithsonian."
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Scientific Data Disappears At Alarming Rate, 80% Lost In Two Decades

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  • Re:Concerning... (Score:5, Informative)

    by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:24AM (#45744045)

    I'd go to one of the British deposit libraries and ask to see their copy; deposit libraries have existed since the Statute of Anne in 1710. The British Library has 28,765 books and 1,480 journals in its catalogue from 1910...

  • Re:Concerning... (Score:5, Informative)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday December 20, 2013 @06:10AM (#45744165)
    As an extreme case, the BBC has reported on scrolls from Pompeii and Herculaneum that were 'destroyed' by Vesuvius are now starting to reveal their secrets using some pretty impressive techniques. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25106956 [bbc.co.uk]
  • how this happens (Score:4, Informative)

    by Goldsmith (561202) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:12AM (#45745567)

    Our scientific research system is built around the process of joining a lab, mastering the work there, and then leaving. There are very few long term research partnerships. The people who stay in place are the professors, who generally do not do the research work.

    So you join a lab, produce a few terabytes of data a year, pull a few publishable nuggets out of that and then leave. I have a few backup hard drives that move around with me with what I consider my most important data, probably total 1/10 of the data I have taken. After a few years, this data is really unimportant to me as the labs I have left have done a good job of continuing the research and I have to spend my time and money on something else.

    The original data is eventually overwritten by researchers a few "generations" removed from me and that's the end of it.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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