Follow the Data

A data driven blog

Speed of data collection

Can this quote from a new Wall Street Journal article really be true?

In fact, more technical data have been collected in the past year alone than in all previous years since science began, says Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Alexander Szalay, an authority on large data sets and their impact on science.

The article is about how to preserve and capture scientific data. This is a pressing question, as evidenced by another quote:

“Our ability to collect data now outstrips our ability to maintain it for the long run,” says William Michener at the University of New Mexico, who leads a data-preservation network called DataONE. “We lose an awful lot of data that is collected with public funds.”

An interesting point mentioned in the article is that although the advances in information technology mean that we now mostly have data which is much more suitable for preservation (electronic documents rather than hand-written notes and scribbles), it has also led to graduate students starting to communicate a lot by instant messaging, which acts as a sinkhole for a lot of information.

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