Digital Preservation: Lost and Found Research

The fast pace of technology’s advance has left some data behind as data stored on tapes, floppy disks, and other media that is now unreadable by modern computers is essentially lost. In addition, file formats change as new programs are developed, making older programs obsolete. To help save this lost data, Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) is leading the Dataverse Network Project, which provides archival storage for scientific research projects. IQSS provides professional archiving standards designed to ensure future access to data. Once a researcher’s data is entered into the system, it is converted from its original file format into a basic one that ensures the information will remain readable for decades. When that format becomes obsolete, the system will automatically convert the data to a new format that also is designed to last for decades, says IQSS director Gary King. The institute currently hosts more than 350 individual researchers’ Dataverses, which includes about 40,000 studies and 665,000 files, according to IQSS’ Merce Crosas. The software’s open source design allows other researchers to add features that can be shared with the community of users.–Alvin Powell, “Data May Not Compute,” Harvard Gazette, September 16, 2011


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