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Canada Science

Canadian Government Trucking Generations of Scientific Data To the Dump 209

sandbagger writes "Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump. The northern nation's scientific community has been up in arms over the holidays as local scientific libraries and records offices were closed and their shelves — some of which contained century old data — emptied into dumpsters. Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized. The scientists say, 'The people who use this research don’t have any say in what is being saved or tossed aside.'"
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Canadian Government Trucking Generations of Scientific Data To the Dump

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  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:20PM (#45961157)

    Clearly there is a lot of smoke and hot air being generated, not sure if there is really much of a fire.

    That’s no way to treat a library, scientists say []

    Their internationally renowned collections have been transferred to the two federal aquatic libraries that remain, in Sidney, B.C., and in Dartmouth, N.S. ...

    Gail Shea, minister of fisheries and oceans, accuses critics of spreading “serious misinformation.” Her department insists there will be “no changes to the size or scope of the collection.”

    In a statement emailed to the Star by her spokesperson, Shea said no more than a dozen nonemployees visited each library annually. And more than 95 per cent of documents provided to users were done so over the Internet.

    “It’s not fair to taxpayers to make them pay for libraries that so few people actually used,” Shea says, explaining the government’s main reason for consolidating the collections. The closings will save $443,000 in 2014-2015, according to government estimates. .....

    The research, Ayles argues, “is effectively lost because it’s no longer accessible. It’s like stuff in your grandfather’s basement.”

    So the data hasn't disappeared, it's now in another library where it is less convenient to access.

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:30PM (#45961211)

    They've only said that they have. I realize that it's considered poor form around here to read the article before commenting but...

  • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:37PM (#45961273)

    Bullshit. Even the former Torie Minister of Fisheries says this is nuts along with most every other decision this government has made when it comes to the fisheries. This government has exactly one aim, to sell tar, I mean oil, gotta be politically correct.
    They've pissed away the budget surplus while claiming to be conservative and much better fiscal managers. They've sold or allowed to be sold much of the tar, whoops I mean bitumen sands to China. They import foreign workers at a never before seen rate, not to do IT as they don't believe in it but to work at McDonalds and Tim Hortons and force wages even lower while Chinese investors drive the cost of living up. They treat a 38% win as an overwhelming mandate and cry about how it is undemocratic for the majority to vote against them and prorogue Parliament whenever they feel like it because, you know, democracy.
    Sorry I don't have any assistants to help me get links, I'm in Canada so only have a dial-up connection.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:43PM (#45961315) Homepage

    It does seem sad that digitizing books leads to destruction of physical copies. I hope they are earnestly being offered to other libraries beforehand.

    The point here is that the books are _not_ being digitized, and it is the _only_ copies which are being destroyed []. This isn't the public library getting rid of their extra copies of "Fifty Shades of Gray", it's decades of scientific data being sent to dumpsters or outright burned. In many cases the destruction has been done without any attempt at identifying or recording the books being destroyed, so we may not even be able to know exactly what has been affected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:01AM (#45961459)

    Actually this is a BIG deal.
    The purpose of these department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) libraries was not for the general public to access them - they were for government scientists in these research centres be able able to proper research and be able to do studies on climate/fish-habitat change over time, which includes looking up past materials and reports. For a "non-employee" to access, these government libraries actually requires a fairly lengthy application process.

    In the past, governments have relied on these scientists to give them accurate reports on what is happening in the environment, so the government could make informed policy decisions based on facts. Without good research materials this is very hard to do. (or maybe that's the point...)

    One of the greatest losses will be "grey materials" - reports that are hard to find because they were never "officially published", and may not exist in any other library. Or they may exist elsewhere, but it requires a lengthy wait to locate the materials and have them shipped assuming the other library will lend them out. Reports are now coming in that very few of the materials are actually being scanned, and most are just being thrown out.

    The move is especially disappointing because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (a politician) is saying this move will save "$443,000" over one year. This is the same federal government that spent $9 million dollars last year on advertising to make people feel better about their cell phone bills.

    And, yes I'm Canadian. It's not a good situation.
    (name withheld)

  • Not 95% of documents (Score:5, Informative)

    by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:13AM (#45961535) Homepage

    95% of requests were over the Internet, rather than in person - no surprise there, it's more accessible. We have no idea how many of the documents were available to be accessed this way, though.

    No wait, we do. FTFA:

    In late December, as outrage over the library closings grew, her department posted answers to 19 questions online []. It gave the total size of the print collection as 660,000 items. Some 30,000 departmental publications are available online and more documents are being digitized. But many books can’t be digitized due to copyright laws.

    So only 4.5% of documents are available online (assuming departmental publications == print collection, which I'm not sure about). Too soon to start throwing out entire collections, it seems - if ever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:34AM (#45961663)
    The claim that the Canadian government is "just" digitizing them appears to be false. Instead they are burning and throwing them in the dumpster: Ref 1 []. Ref 2 [] Also, these documents are about the natural environment or climate science which the Conservatives (big C) have attacked, in part by muzzling scientists []. These documents are going to a murky bottom at the bottom of a lake so to speak. Maybe somebody should be properly digitizing them though, in which case I would agree with your "Meh." statement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:45AM (#45961729)

    Every dictatorial government in recent history has practised the art of "book burning". The current Conservative government is on a quest to stamp out science that doesn't match their policies. The environment, the poor, seniors, veterans and many are paying the price to "balance" the 2015 budget. Conveniently an election year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:06AM (#45962195)

    It's hard to learn from history when the records of it have been shredded.

    Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
    -- George Orwell (1984)

  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:10AM (#45962693)

    FTA: "A DFO scientist told the Star of recently trying to access several documents that were previously available in one of the closed libraries. They could not be found."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:25AM (#45962973)
    Try touching paper records that have been stored for a thousands years, especially paper from cheap dot matrix printers with cheap faint ink. Even if kept in perfect conditions I doubt they would be readable even if the paper was still in a condition that allowed you to handle it. I deal with old research printouts of data now. much from the 70's, 80's and 90's where I work has been entered into computer precisely because of how badly old documents degrade. We have lost a lot of data precisely because we relied on the paper trail for too long. paper really is not a good medium to store reams of information on, the storage space is to large, the conditions required to keep it in perfect condition are expensive and it is damn inconvenient and costly to process.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments