March 2, 2017

Saving Climate Change Data

Last month, New York University hosted a #DataRescue event as part of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative’s (EDGI) effort to preserve environmental evidence.

EDGI, which formed directly following the 2016 presidential election, began with a team of 40 researchers and social scientists. In only a few months, the network has grown to include computer programmers and librarians throughout North America.

The #DataRescue events bring together qualified volunteers to ‘guerilla archive’ environmental data from relevant agencies, offices, and programs. While the information obtained is secured in EDGI’s Amazon cloud, the main purpose of these ‘rescue’ events is to make the data publicly accessible. EDGI also provides metadata and documentation to contextualize and describe the resources it is preserving.

One team at an event, for instance, is assigned to focus on federal government websites and rescue the pages that can be publicly placed on the End of Term Archive, an archive created in the 2008 presidential election to preserve federal government websites, since many of them can be altered or removed during presidential transitions.

“Environmental policy is driven by evidence,” explained Jerome Whitington, a professor of anthropology at NYU and a member of EDGI’s team and one of the organizers of the NYU #DataRescue event. Without data, environmental experts cannot gather support to pass policies that will execute the positive changes that our nation–and planet–so sorely needs.

The EDGI’s efforts have seen positive feedback. Congressional offices have reached out to the group, drafts in legislation are at work to protect environmental data, and district attorneys’ have shown support.