The Climate Data Harvest Project

The following information was posted on December 16, 2016. Watch this space for updates.

In a December 14 post on the SAA Issues and Advocacy Roundtable blog, SAA member Eira Tansey provides an overview of current efforts directed to climate and environmental data harvesting:  What Can Archivists Do about Concerns Regarding Federal Climate and Environmental Data?  She notes, “Shortly after the US election results, many who rely on federal climate and environmental data became very concerned about the continuing public availability of this data….” Tansey is a leader in ProjectARCC. (See Additional Resources below.)

Much of the following information was provided by Laurie Allen, Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and a member of the team of organizers at the Penn Environmental Humanities Lab. Visit Penn’s #DataRefuge site (which went live on December 13) to learn more about the group’s efforts.

Here’s what you can do to help now and soon (as of December 16, 2016):

  • Nominate urls for inclusion in the End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016. The folks there are working hard to “go deep” into federal websites, including gathering ftp sites and pdfs. The nomination tool is a great way both to identify hard-to-find places and to prioritize those places that many people think are important.
  • At data refuge events and over web networks, organizers are asking researchers and citizens about which datasets and environmental websites they use the most. The organizers will use a form to gather ideas, and that form will produce metadata. As they identify the most highly valued datasets, they will welcome archivist-volunteers to clean up and improve upon the metadata so that, as it’s harvested, they can have some confidence that they’ll be able to find it again. This will not apply to the large quantity of material that will be harvested by web crawl, but to the more difficult query-based or log in system.
  • Connect the organizers with individuals within government archives and libraries who may have special access to hard-to-get datasets.
  • The data rescue events will produce WARC files. The organizers would like to give volunteers some information about how to do QA on WARC files, perhaps in the company of a research scientist who knows the material. Do you have such instructions, or would you be willing to create them?

To volunteer, complete the #DataRefuge help form.

And on an ongoing basis:

The data refuge effort currently is operating as a short-term project. But this is an opportunity for archivists nationwide to:

  • Educate your community about the vulnerability of all data on the web,
  • Learn from your community about which federal (and state and local) datasets are most important to them, and
  • Set up longer-term projects to proactively collect the kinds of materials that your community needs – whether or not it’s already offered freely through the government.

Additional Resources

The University of Toronto also has been very active in alerting communities to the importance of harvesting climate and environmental data, and is hosting a “Guerrilla Archiving Event” on December 17. Read more here.

ProjectARCC (Project Archivists Responding to Climate Change) is “a community of archivists taking action on climate change.” The group believes that “archivists have a professional responsibility to:  Protect archival collections from the impact of climate change, reduce our professional carbon and ecological footprint, elevate climate-change-related archival collections to improve public awareness and understanding of climate change, and preserve this epochal moment in history for future research and understanding.” The group provides “an organizing space for archivists to build coalitions (local, regional and international), collaborate, and share information about climate change, its impact on our profession, and what we can do about it.”

View SAA’s information brief on Archives and the Environment.

To volunteer, complete the #DataRefuge help form.