About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.


I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.

2017-06-09

Real Life Nerds: UPDATE--Protecting Public Data From Big Brother

Data scientists, archivists and librarians are still hard at work preserving government research and information that they fear could be lost or removed under the Donald Trump administration.

I'm not trying to make a political statement here, but I have to point out that within hours of President Trump's inauguration all mentions of climate change were removed from the White House website, and since then climate data has disappeared from other government sites.

You can read about the roots of this data preservation movement in our previous post.

The movement has grown, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative--an international network of academics and non-profits addressing potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy, and to the scientific research infrastructure--has been formed to protect the public's right to know, maintain the United States' standing as a scientific leader, ensure corporate accountability, and maintain environmental protection.

To further their agenda, the group created an extension that can be added to the Google Chrome web browser that allows users to nominate data sets for archiving. Preserved data sets are downloaded to DataRefuge, where the information is available to the public.

Justin Schell, director of Shapiro Design Lab at the University of Michigan, points out that collecting the data is only the first step. Everything must be verified, organized, properly described, and put into an accessible format. In some cases the people collecting data find multiple copies of the same information, and sometimes the information doesn't agree with other versions, which means the data preservationists have to contact scientists and academics knowledgeable about the data to verify it.

If you'd like to take part in the data preservation movement,  you can contribute to DataRefuge in a variety of ways:

Fill out their survey if you use climate data for your own work, so DataRefuge can prioritize efforts to save valuable and vulnerable data.

If you see data on the web that needs to be preserved, check the Internet Archive to find out if it's being archived. The Internet Archive offers a guide to 6 ways to preserve information in the Wayback Machine--If You See Something, Save Something.

Help spread the word if you're good at writing or using social media. Let other people know about DataRefuge and the importance of climate and environmental data on our everyday lives.

Get involved with the Libraries+ Network if you're in a library. The Libraries+ Network works to create a sustainable, systematic, and programmatic way to archive federal data.

Even if you don't think climate data is vital, the data preservation movement encompasses other government resources such as the CDC, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Education, so there's going to be something in this archive that's important to everyone. 

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