European organisations form alliance to preserve science assets of digital age

Twelve European knowledge-based organisations have joined forces with the goal of establishing a European infrastructure to help preserve and provide permanent access to digital scientific
information.

The digital revolution has enabled the analysis of research data, together with easy storage and retrieval from rapidly growing data collections. However, the digitalisation of research data
has also made collections vulnerable to loss, as storage devices physically deteriorate and quickly become obsolete as data formats change and new technologies emerge.

For these reasons, key European players in science and scientific information have teamed up to form the Alliance for Permanent Access to the Digital Records of Science. This critical mass of
stakeholders aims to develop a coordinated European solution to these problems by creating a viable and sustainable European infrastructure for access to the records of science. It will seek to
enable diverse scientific communities, such as particle physics, astronomy and space science, life sciences, earth and environmental sciences, or social sciences, to create information
repositories which will form part of this physical and virtual infrastructure.

At the same time, the Alliance will work with these communities to agree on a set of common standards, in order to make their repositories interoperable. The repositories should also benefit
from a number of common resources, such research and development (R&D) activities and a framework offering technical tools.

‘Like many other sectors in society, science has become completely dependent on digital information, but this dependence also comes with a number of major risks because of the many unresolved
challenges in the long-term preservation and access to this information. Therefore the effort of the alliance is essential to the preservation of science knowledge,’ commented Professor Ian
Halliday from one of the founding members of the Alliance; the European Science Foundation (ESF).

The idea of an Alliance was first mooted in the follow-up to a European Conference held during the Dutch EU Presidency in 2004. At this conference a broad consensus was reached that the
long-term storage of data, the preservation of their integrity and their accessibility to future generations was a shared responsibility among various stakeholders involved in the processes. It
was agreed that many of the related challenges should be tackled at the European level.

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