Volunteers join together in effort to protect federal environmental data

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Spurred by fears that President Donald Trump will limit climate change discourse, 170 volunteers came together in Doe Library on Saturday and began efforts to archive publicly available data about climate and renewable energy.

The archiving effort, which was organized in two and a half weeks with help from the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, focused on backing up the climate change data available on NASA and the Department of Energy websites. Together, the volunteers nominated 8,404 URLs to the Internet Archive for preservation.

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based nonprofit internet library that accepts nominations for URLs to be stored and eventually made publicly available. The volunteers catalogued more than two dozen gigabytes of data from these public databases to submit to the nonprofit.

The group — composed of scientists, coders and librarians, among others — believes there is a risk that the Trump administration may erase information from public websites containing climate data.

“Officials of the current administration have made alarming statements that show a disregard for scientific consensus, especially with regards to climate change and the environment,” said Diya Das, one of the event’s organizers and a campus doctoral candidate in molecular and cell biology, in an email. We’re archiving public data from these websites as a safeguard against any of these threats. We want to ensure this data will remain accessible to the public in the future.”

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center spokesperson Edward Campion did not comment on the necessity of data rescues but noted his organization’s efforts to promote accessibility.

“Since 1994, NASA has supported a full and open sharing of data from Earth science satellites, field campaigns and research,” Campion said in an email. “Earth data are being used in research and for applications such as forestry, agriculture, disaster relief, software development, commercial mapping, and shipping.”

Not everyone in the scientific community, however, believes that these efforts were necessary. Dennis Baldocchi, a campus professor of environmental science, policy, and management, said he does not think the Trump administration could feasibly clear climate data from federal websites because of the potential adverse effect it would have on aviation routes and the economy.

Baldocchi added that most information from these websites is already protected because scientists often download this data and share them with one another for their work.

Despite doubts of the project’s necessity, Lindsey Dillon, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz and one of the event organizers, emphasized that data rescues will be a recurring effort.

“We really see this not just as a day but as part of a movement — a broad-based social movement around open scientific data,” Dillon said. “This shouldn’t be vulnerable to any administration.”

Contact Azwar Shakeel and Ashley Wong at [email protected].