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NSF and ARL Team on Groundbreaking Workshop on Digital Data Stewardship

Final Report Now Available

SDSC Press Release

Association of Research Libraries
Prudence S. Adler

San Diego Supercomputer Center
Paul Tooby

Today, digital data collections are everywhere. People snap digital photos, download music, and Tivo their favorite TV programs. Scientists and engineers, too, depend on digital information -- from clinical data in medicine and the life sciences to satellite data for climate research to census information for economics research, data forms the single most prevalent driver for new discoveries in the 21st century.

But will today's digital data be available tomorrow?

The opportunities opened by digital data bring new challenges in how to migrate critical information forward in time for the benefit of future generations. For example, digital text and video from the recent elections will provide a valuable historical record for the future – if they are preserved.

To explore the challenges of digital data stewardship and preservation, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) teamed to conduct a workshop in September, 2006, on "New Collaborative Relationships: Academic Libraries in the Digital Data Universe." The workshop was co-chaired by San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) Director Fran Berman, and University Librarian Wendy Lougee from the University of Minnesota , and organized by Prudence Adler, ARL Associate Executive Director.

"We live in an electronic age in which the cultural heritage of our society, including our research legacy, is increasingly digital," said Chris Greer, Program Director for the NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure. "Preserving this digital legacy for future generations is THE preservation challenge of this era, and meeting this challenge will require new partnerships to create combinations of skills and capabilities not found in many preservation institutions of the past. This workshop provided an exciting look into a promising future for digital preservation."

The groundbreaking workshop brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the digital data world including participants from the library community – traditional experts in the stewardship and preservation of valuable cultural assets, and scientists and engineers -- who are just beginning to grapple with the challenges of managing and preserving mushrooming digital data from experiments, simulations, and instruments. Workshop participants focused on key issues including sustainable economic models and infrastructure for data preservation, as well as new opportunities for synergistic partnerships between the library community and the science and engineering communities. Workshop participants also emphasized that these digital data resources are a shared common good that fuel interdisciplinary research and collaborative science.

"Research and education communities are straining under a deluge of data." said Berman, "The preservation of data and its transformation into useful and usable information is critical for new discovery in virtually every community. This workshop addressed some of the most difficult and compelling challenges in digital data preservation, and identified key areas in which the library community and the academic community can partner to address them."

Adds Wendy Lougee, "The digital data deluge presents significant challenges, but also significant opportunities for collaboration among different communities. The workshop underscored the potential for research library contribution, bringing critical strengths in preservation and access to the table."

The final workshop report, To Stand the Test of Time: Long-Term Stewardship of Digital Data Sets in Science and Engineering ( Washington , DC : ARL, 2006) provides a wealth of information on the issues of digital preservation and a sourcebook of related reports. The report is now available on the ARL Web site.

About ARL
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 research libraries in North America . Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is located on the Web at

About SDSC
For more than two decades, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) has enabled breakthrough data-driven and computational science and engineering discoveries through the innovation and provision of information infrastructure, technologies and interdisciplinary expertise. A key resource to academia and industry, SDSC is an international leader in Data Cyberinfrastructure and computational science, and serves as a national data repository to nearly 100 public and private data collections. SDSC is an Organized Research Unit and integral part of the University of California , San Diego and one of the founding sites of NSF's TeraGrid. For more information, see

About NSF
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly. For more information, see

Related Links

Workshop report To Stand the Test of Time: Long-Term Stewardship of Digital Data Sets in Science and Engineering
San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
The University of Minnesota Libraries
NSF Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure


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