Data Rescue IG


Group details

Secretariat Liaison: 
Timea Biro
TAB Liaison: 
Helen Glaves
Case Statement: 
IG Established

Sincere thanks to *Data Rescue IG Emeritus Chair Dr. Elizabeth Griffin* for her tireless efforts in support of international data rescue work.


The natural sciences possess a rich heritage of data spanning the entire era of research, encompassing both modern electronic formats and analogue ones (paper, film, books, pro-formas, charts, maps, photographic plates) or primitive magnetic tapes. The information in older data is critical for quantifying changes and trends and differentiating between natural or anthropogenic-induced changes. Unfortunately, most historical data have not been converted into electronic datasets. Those data cannot be accessed by present-day research - to the serious detriment of models that predict future changes. Even those that have been 'digitized' (whether catalogues of measurements or the actual observations) are rarely in interoperable, even easily readable, formats. Though essential to research for their unique time-stamp, heritage data are often in deteriorating state, abandoned, or effectively lost (if not actually destroyed). Their profile is unacceptably low; even the RDA does not have an organized effort focussing on this crucial topic.


Since 2010, CODATA has hosted a Task Group for "Data At Risk" (DAR-TG). DAR-TG led an enthusiastic Plenary #3 BoF session, and we are now proposing a new RDA IG for "Data Rescue" with affiliation to DAR-TG. DAR-TG's own international membership will set the IG at once on an international footing, and its history will endow the young IG with ready-made experience and contacts. The joint organization will benefit considerably from the broader exposure which the RDA will offer, such that the sum of the two will unquestionably be greater than the sum of separate entities working in parallel (even in competition). Both DAR-TG and CODATA itself are very happy with this proposed development.


The objectives of the new IG will be (a) to ferret out and catalogue known data-rescue efforts as exemplars of what can be achieved, and thereby raising the profile of Data Rescue in the world at large, (b) to establish an advisory system for 'digitizing' and associated tasks, and (c) to communicate with relevant RDA IGs (Education, Metadata, History & Ethnography, Long Tail of Data, and the domain-specific standard-setters). It will also consider extending its remit to 'adding value' to older digital data. It will provide a unique forum for sharing experience, expertise and ideas. Its overarching goal will be to convince scientists and policy makers of the immense value of implementing data rescue, and by enabling interoperability, access and (thence) wide application, to grow the activity into an essential and routine element of all research.


The Data Rescue IG will be particularly valuable for science researchers who require data from the past, and (by sharing best practice, hardware and software) for archivists and others with responsibilities to oversee the preservation of historical information in the humanities and social sciences. Case studies tabulated by the DAR-TG to date range from modest individual or small-group attempts to extend a domain-specific research data-base backwards in time in order to study natural evolution, to transnational organizations that align and open access to broad categories such as rocks, fossils or the ocean's characteristics, for the benefit of all academic research; some (such as 'Old Weather', or the recovery of 'lost' tapes from early space missions) also appeal strongly to the general public. A small selection of those stories features in the introductory article to an issue of GeoResJ dedicated to "data rescue"[1]. Collecting, cataloguing and sharing information on all such projects, regardless of outcome, will thus be a key mission.


[1] "When are Old Data New Data?" Griffin, R.E.M., and the CODATA Task Group for "Data At Risk", 2015, GeoResJ.


Previous Meetings:

11th Plenary IG Berlin: Data Rescue: Determining data sets that are at risk and prioritizing their rescue

10th Plenary IG Montreal:

9th Plenary IG Barcelona:

8th Plenary IG Denver:

7th Plenary IG Tokyo:

6th Plenary IG Paris:


Current Chairs of the IG:  Steve Diggs, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, USA; Denise Hills Alabama Geological Survey, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; David Gallaher, National Snow & Ice Data Center, Boulder, CO, USA; Lesley Wyborn, Australian National University, ACT, Australia

Recent Activity

19 Apr 2018

Rescuing scientific data! Join, support and connect.

Dear IG member,
Those of you in or near Europe will be interested to hear about the following "Workshop on Data Rescue". There is no registration fee. Anyone who wishes to attend may present a short account of a data-rescue project that was undertaken - whether fully successful or otherwise.
Please spread the word!
Kind regards,
Elizabeth Griffin
(Emerita Chair, IG on Data Rescue)

10 Feb 2018

automating data rescue practices?

via Jason Clark on Twitter:
{ "jason": "clark" } - @jaclark: Built a prototype chatbot interface that walks you though a dialogue, creates metadata as #jsonld + #markdown, and snaps a screenshot. Could be useful as a cursory #EndangeredData tool...

15 Sep 2017

Invitation to attend the Dat Rescue IG session on Wednesday Sept 20, 3:30-5:00 pm

Dear IG Members,
You are all warmly invited to attend the session of IG Data Rescue, 4th session on Wednesday in Mansfield Room 5.
We particularly draw your attention to item 5 below. "Data Rescue" is so often something that can substantially assist in research, so please come forward with your own needs and ideas how we might work together.
Elizabeth Griffin + co-Chairs Lesley Wyborn, Dave Gallaher,
and Vice-Chairs Steve Diggs, Jamie Shiers, Usha Munshi

09 Jun 2017

Two of us at NAGARA 2017 in Boise

Just noticed that two of our group (and DAR-TG) members are presenting at this conference.


On Thursday July 13, John Faundeen is presenting in Session 6 – Preserving the Flow of Information: Investigating Trusted Digital Repository Certification Options.


The other member is me, presenting in Session 2 - What Would MacGyver do? Strategies for Digitizing Defunct or Proprietary Formats


As mentioned by others in RDA, people in all sorts of disciplines have many common interests when it comes to Data Rescue.


05 Jun 2017

Fwd: Expanding the scope of ‘data rescue'

Dear Data Rescue IG Members,
You may have heard about various data rescue efforts since the recent
change in leadership here in the US. The goal of many of these
volunteer-led events and organically formed organizations have been focused
on the very real possibility of federal environmental data being less
accessible in the near future. Any reallocation of federal funding coupled
with small changes in the human and digital landscape associated with these
national information resources could could severely compromise the earth

06 Apr 2017

Case for cross-sector collaboration in identifying and preserving at-risk data

RDA Data Rescue group members,
This recent ESIP press release and paper
on topic of "the case for
cross-sector collaboration in identifying and preserving at-risk data
" may be of interest to IG
Stronger together: the case for cross-sector collaboration in identifying
and preserving at-risk data