Two weeks ago I attended the 7th Plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) in Tokyo. I enjoy attending RDA Plenaries not only because of the interesting topics but also because of all my wonderful RDA colleagues. I was recently appointed the RDA US Data Share Ambassador, so I work with the RDA US Data Share Fellows and promote their work on social media. In addition, I co-chaired a Birds-of-a-Feather meeting and attending meetings of the many Interest Groups in which I am involved. One of these is the Data Rescue Interest Group that focuses on rescuing old data sets from the dust bin of history, usually by migrating old data to a new, usable format. Their meetings usually consist of stories of successful data rescue, failed data rescue, and a discussion of how we can learn from these examples and stop losing data. Several success stories originate from the International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences that recognizes efforts within Geosciences to advance preservation of and access to research data. The latest winners created an electronic catalogue of all the fossil collections in the UK. In addition, the Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance (IEDA) offers data rescue mini-awards that provide funds for the transfer of unpublished data to IEDA.
Personally, I enjoy hearing stories about finding and transforming data. Professionally, I know how frustrating it can be to use an old data set. That is why I think awards to recognize data rescue and funds to support data rescue are important for many scientific disciplines, not just Geoscience. There should be similar awards and funds available for the rescue of biological data sets, specifically in evolution and ecology. This idea is still very new. I’m hoping to find partners over the next year so that in 2018, there will be a winner for the International Data Rescue Award in Evolution and Ecology.