We define "data at risk" in this context as scientific data which are not in a format that permits full electronic access to the information which they contain. Such data may be inherently non-digital (e.g. handwritten or photographic), on near-obsolete digital media (such as magnetic tapes) or insufficiently described (lacking meta-data). Some born-digital data can also be considered "at risk" if they cannot be ingested into managed databases because they lack adequate formatting or metadata. Data which are regarded as unuseable tend to be regarded as useless, and then risk being destroyed. Most of the non-electronic data in question pre-date the digital era, and where they complement more modern ones by offering a much longer time-base they are essential, sometimes vital, for studies of long-term trends.

Goals and Objectives

Our overriding goal is to create an Inventory of data that are at risk, and whose unique scientific information is in danger of being lost to posterity. (The Inventory will become the foundation for a Phase II project to design a series of missions to rescue that information.) DARTG will thus accentuate the need to be protective of the scientific content of fragile data, and will illustrate this broader objective by compiling literature describing new science which has emanated from analyses of rescued, historic data. By working through the steps to achieve our Objective, DARTG will demonstrate an approach, process, and practices for building an extensible inventory of scientific data which risk being lost or destroyed and whose information content is therefore seriously endangered.


  1. Define a set of core metadata properties essential for an inventory.
  2. Establish an infrastructure to support inventory data collection and maintenance.
  3. Populate the inventory with data at risk in selected target disciplines.
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School of Information and Library Science, UNC-CH
Last updated January 24, 2012