Sharing the data

Stefano Costa
Wed Jun 21 19:04:45 CEST 2006

Il giorno mer, 21/06/2006 alle 09.50 +0200, Giancarlo Macchi ha scritto:
> Dear Friends,
> I just want to ask you some thing related with the topic of 
> data sharing.
> In this moment I'm finishing an Landscape Archaeology article
> where I made some assumptions on the basis of point distribution
> maps. As Roberto correctly stated in one of his previous posts
> the data "should be available" to the reader in order to validate
> or refute my assumptions.
> So the question is very simple: is there a secure place to
> publish such files. I mean, even if my lab today run a web server
> and other services, I don't know if 20 years from now there will
> be an archaeology department, I will be still an archaeologist,
> the University of Siena will be interested on keeping my old
> files in some server etc etc etc. 
> Do you know about the existence of institutions and repositories
> for such purposes?

I think that could be a suggested place for
some of such purposes. The Alexandria Archive Initiative works towards
open archaeological archives to be published on the web (which could
however have a slightly different meaning from "share the data").

Another interesting project can be found here
and it comes from the Netherlands, and this is more linked to "data

Maybe there are others, we could try to collect links to all of them and
evaluate/discuss which are the best-fitting.

But I'll try to give you a more "scientific" answer as well. I guess
it's quite different from Benjamin's previous post, but I hope we can
have some good discussion about this one.

If you are publishing your data as freely available on the WWW (free,
not just gratis..), everyone with an Internet connection can search
through them, browse, download, re-use, re-distribute. You see, it's
much like free software.

If we assume that datasets have their own history, then let this history
be one of spreading, being used (and perhaps abused) and spread again.
This is the very idea of scholarly literature meant as a medium for
exchange of information, ideas - and data, of course.

When your dataset will be erased from Siena's server 20 years from now
(or maybe even earlier - where do 20-years-ago pre/proto-digital
datasets have gone?), it will depend on the spreading of those data
whether they are lost at all or they have at some extent survived in
someone else's archives. It is obvious that if in these 20 years nobody
makes a copy, then those data actually have little or no interest at all
for the scientific community (and I guess this is not your case).

Over long time-spans, data and information are not well-preserved by
choosing a potentially everlasting support. Archaeology teaches us that
everlasting objects do not exist. On the opposite, just like music
recordings and ancient books, it's the continuous re-encoding that
guarantees preservation. We have already had some discussion about
digital file formats, you see as well that different topics are quite
linked each other (though I suppose it's better to keep them separated
not to generate confusion).

Briefly, I'm supporting the idea that

 SHARING allows (among the others) PRESERVATION

opposite to the idea that

 PRESERVATION is necessary for SHARING

What do you think about this?

Best regards,

Stefano Costa Software Open Source per l'Archeologia
GnuPG Key ID 1024D/0xD0D30245
Linux Registered User #385969

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