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* -Blue Ribbon Task Force Report: Preserving Digital Knowledge Base Must Be a Public Priority

Fran Berman

Blue Ribbon Task Force Report:
Preserving Digital Knowledge Base Must Be a Public Priority

Addressing one of the most urgent societal challenges of the information Age — ensuring that valued digital information will be accessible not just today, but in the future — requires solutions that are at least as much economic and social as technical, according to a new report by a Blue Ribbon Task Force. The task force is co-chaired by Fran Berman, vice president of research at Rensselaer.

The Final Report from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access, called “Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: Ensuring Long-term Access to Digital Information,” is the result of a two-year effort focusing on the critical economic challenges of preserving an ever-increasing amount of information in a world gone digital.

“The Data Deluge is here. Ensuring that our most valuable information is available both today and tomorrow is not just a matter of finding sufficient funds,” said Berman. “It’s about creating a ‘data economy’ in which those who care, those who will pay, and those who preserve are working in coordination.”

The challenge in preserving valuable digital information — consisting of text, video, images, music, sensor data, etc. generated throughout all areas of our society — is real and growing at an exponential pace. A recent study by the International Data Corporation (IDC) found that a total of 3,892,179,868,480,350,000,000 (that’s roughly 3.9 trillion times a trillion) new digital information bits were created in 2008. In the future, the digital universe is expected to double in size every 18 months, according to the IDC report.

While much has been written on the digital preservation issue as a technical challenge, the Blue Ribbon Task Force report focuses on the economic aspect; i.e. how stewards of valuable, digitally based information can pay for preservation over the longer term. The report provides general principles and actions to support long-term economic sustainability; context-specific recommendations tailored to specific scenarios analyzed in the report; and an agenda for priority actions and next steps, organized according to the type of decision maker best suited to carry that action forward. Moreover, the report is intended to serve as a foundation for further study in this critical area.

In addition to releasing its report, the task force earlier this month announced plans for a one-day symposium to provide a forum for discussion on economically sustainable digital preservation practices. The symposium, to be held April 1 in Washington, D.C., will include a spectrum of national leaders from the Executive Office of the President of the United States, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Museum, Nature Magazine, Google, and other organizations for whom digital information is fundamental for success.

To read the full press release, go to http://news.rpi.edu/ update.do?artcenterkey=2691. The full report is available online at http://brtf.sdsc.edu/biblio/BRTF_Final_Report.pdf.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 5, March 19, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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