Furthermore, it will promote transparency related to the development, and hopefully, create incentives for various types of organizations to improve data quality and increase data sharing.

PARTICIPANT: I am with the International Environmental Data Rescue Organization. We are a nonprofit organization whose mandate is to locate, rescue, and digitize every piece of historic environmental data we can find throughout the world. We have projects in 15 developing countries, and we have rescued probably 2 million to 30 million historic weather observations. One of the problems we have is that, for example, we have located about 30 million weather observations on microfiche. They were taken in about 1,000 observation sites throughout Africa. We are negotiating with the African Center for Meteorological Applications for Development in Niger to at least get the microfiche before they deteriorate to nothing. I am wondering, do any of your organizations have data in a format where you cannot share them? Right now 95 percent of our data are either on microfiche or on paper, and that is a very huge problem for us. I am wondering if anybody knows of any other organizations, other than our own, that actually seek out data on perishable media to rescue them before they are gone forever.

DR. WOODCOCK: The U.S. Geological Survey is doing that for Landsat data. They do get data on all kinds of customized software and media, where they have to go back and reconstruct and reconcile them. It is hard. I do not do that myself, but I have been convinced that it is a pretty big obstacle in many countries.

PARTICIPANT: I am not sure if I am the only librarian in the audience, but libraries are definitely aware of this. They have been looking at this for straight text documents, and now they are starting to look at it for both born-digital, which is also being lost at an alarming rate, and print objects. So there are institutions working on these problems, and the National Science Foundation is supporting some of that activity.

PARTICIPANT: There is also a new CODATA task group called Data at Risk, which is working to at least identify a broader range of scientific data, not just environmental. Another group is the Minnesota Population Center. There is a lot of recovery of old census data, going back and migrating data on old media and similar activities. There are different groups in different disciplines that are doing this.

PARTICIPANT: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has a data-rescue activity. I imagine there are quite a few others. And the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, I believe, has a digital heritage program.

PARTICIPANT: I have a question for Dan Cheney about the difficulty in getting access to the data that you have been talking about because of the sensitive nature of them. For the FAA data, it could be potentially sensitive for the companies that either built the planes or operate them, in legal exposure. I was wondering if that is mitigated by some kind of legislation that caps the exposure to lawsuits or if there is some kind of waiver of liability associated with the disclosure of the data.

MR. CHENEY: I do not think I mentioned this during the talk. There are four criteria that have to be met before we even begin to look at an accident: the official accident report is issued; the corrective action and accident results are finished; there has not been another accident or incident that would call into question the official accident findings; and litigation is finished. Only then, when all four of those are met, do we begin to work, and we only use publicly available information. Normally it is the information that was gathered during the course of the investigative process, and in the United States it is part of the public domain. We work with other countries’ accident-investigating bodies to secure access to their information that was gathered in the course of the investigation. We do not do any additional investigation. It is only what is already lying around in archives in pieces that is being lost. The task is to put it together in one cohesive place, look at it, and put it in a structure that makes sense. As far as litigation, the opportunity to

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement