Preservation of Physical Samples and other Analog Materials in a Digital Age and Environment


Link to live google doc notes:


As funding and resources continue to be reduced, adequate preservation facilities for physical scientific samples and other analog materials such as charts, maps, log books, and images dwindle. Without historical/legacy data (often only available as physical materials) it becomes much more difficult in determining long-term trends (e.g., climatic changes). Physical sample and analog material preservation can be incredibly challenging - not only dealing with lack of monetary resources, but also issues of environmental controls and standards as well as challenges and concerns about data provenance and ownership. How will it be determined who is responsible for this data preservation? Many funding agencies have begun to require data preservation plans, but this has not been the case in the past. We need to identify the stakeholders of these physical data, and have their buy-in.

These physical samples for Earth Sciences include a great variety - biological specimens, ice cores, rock cores and cuttings, remote sensing data, hard-copy maps and well logs. How do we prioritize what gets preserved, and in what manner (physically only, digitally only, or ideally both)? Some work has been done on some of the geological and geophysical data through the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program. How can we apply these standards, as well as the Open Archive Information System (OAIS) Reference Model, to the diverse data types? We must develop best practices for managing collections that have a physical component, learning from work that has been done in related sciences (e.g., biological, oceanographic, and atmospheric).

This session is intended to start the dialog on physical/analog data integration into the digital age. As such, those experienced with this transition will be invited to share their experiences to aid in developing best practices for earth science data.


Preservation of Physical Samples and other Analog Materials in a Digital Age and Environment

ESIP Winter Meeting 2013 Breakout session: Wednesday, January 9, 2013: 13:30 - 15:00

  • Introduction of Panel and goal of session (5 minutes)
  • Whole Group or Small Group Discussion (30 minutes total)
    • Introductory Exercise (10 minutes)
      • Please give a one or two sentence summary of:
        • What are your physical items to catalog/preserve?
        • What is your primary challenge to this?
    • What are physical samples/analog materials? (10 minutes)
      • Specific examples (from introductory discussion)
      • How can these specifics be grouped into general categories?
      • Examples of how these collections are currently preserved (if time)
    • What are the needs with preservation, specific to physical materials? (10 minutes)
      • Preservation of actual object?
      • If actual object cannot itself be preserved, what about the object is able to be preserved?
  • How can this object become searchable/discoverable? (e.g., what attributes need to be defined?) (15 minutes)
    • This is key to stake-holder buy-in. If your object is not discoverable, then why should it be preserved? However, if it is discoverable, it may have more “value” to stake-holders.
    • What attributes could be considered universal regardless of object category?
    • What types of attributes might be object-group specific?
    • What types of attributes might be object-specific?
  • What has already been done, and what is currently being done? (15 minutes)
    • Updates from group (e.g., Kerstin Lehnert)
    • Specific publications
    • Other current projects that are known about
  • How can this community help in the future? (15 minutes) Suggestions include:
    • Develop template of attributes for each grouping of physical object/analog material type
    • Research on data loss through lack of preservation
    • Develop standards for measures of uncertainty and/or reliability of data
    • Develop community discussion and stake-holder buy-in through:
      • Publications (addressing what has already been lost, what is in danger of being lost, etc)
      • Outreach (presentations about importance of a long record of data; why physical samples are important to preserver, etc.)
      • Other training opportunities
  • Define the NEXT STEPS (10 minutes)
    • What should we accomplish by the ESIP Summer Meeting?
    • What should we accomplish by the next ESIP Winter Meeting?
Wilson, A.; Duerr, R.; Ramdeen, S.; Preservation of Physical Samples and other Analog Materials in a Digital Age and Environment; Winter Meeting 2013. ESIP Commons , October 2012