Contest Aims to Bring ‘Dark Data’ into Digital Archives

by |April 29, 2013

FloppyDiskThe scientific publisher Elsevier and a data archiving facility at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are offering $5,000 and a trophy to the person with the best example of how data-preservation techniques are being used to advance new discoveries in the earth sciences. In launching the International Data Rescue Competition, Elsevier and Lamont’s IEDA (Integrated Earth Data Applications) facility, are looking to showcase innovative ways of preserving, storing and accessing electronic data, and highlight the ways that this information is being used by researchers.

The contest is part of a broader IEDA initiative to archive electronic data before it dies on old floppy disks, tape drives and other outdated technologies to become what IEDA director Kerstin Lehnert and others call “dark data.”

“The term was originally referring to data that did not get published because it was related to ‘failed’ experiments, for example, clinical tests of new medications that ultimately were abandoned,” said Lehnert. “Dark data can be highly valuable for new research projects and scientific studies, but researchers can’t access dark data because they are not properly indexed and archived for online access and retrieval.”

Contest entries must describe what the data looked like before and after the rescue process; how the data might be used after it has been archived; what metadata, models and standards were used and what data repository or collection now makes the data widely accessible to the public. Entries should also include a description of how the data was rescued, be it manually or through an automated process.

The interdisciplinary panel of judges will review the submissions and invite the top ten contestants to an awards ceremony in December 2013. The judges will be: Linda Gundersen at the U.S. Geological Survey; Helen Glaves at the British Geological Survey; Lehnert at IEDA; Mark Parsons at the Research Data Alliance; Lesley Wyborn at Geoscience Australia and Ilya Zaslavsky at University of California, San Diego.

Deadline for submissions is October 10, 2013.

Related: Scientific Publisher to Provide Easy Access to Study Data


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M Patel

very happy to know new “dark data.” has published