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DATA Rescue

Data rescue is the process of securing data at risk of being lost due to deterioration or simple obsolescence of the storage media, natural hazards, theft or vicious destruction, and ensuring that data can be easily accessed and used.

Data rescue broadly encompasses the following activities:

  • Cataloguing and storing of paper media, to minimize the deterioration by humidity or rodent attack until more effective measures can be taken;
  • Imaging paper records (microfilm, optical scanning) for improving preservation and accessibility;
  • Digitizing data into computer compatible form
  • Continuous updating of digital records  to up-to-date media supports and formats

Other activities that may be regarded as data rescue are the retrieval and collection of archives (originals or copies) which for historical reasons where dispersed (e.g. collected by private companies, short lived research projects, or sub-national entities) or that may even be now found abroad.

WMO defines data rescue as “Any ongoing process of preserving all data at risk of being lost due to the deterioration of the medium and the digitization of current and past data into computer compatible form for easy access”

It has to be highlighted in WMO definition of data rescue the emphasis on ongoing processand on computer compatibility. Data rescue processes should be ongoing, indeed  the preservation of data sets, and the adoption of a long term strategy to ensure this goal, taking also account of perspective technology evolution, should be continuously in the priority of anyone responsible for data collection or archiving activities. Data value resides in their easy use for producing analysis, forecasts and other information products: the popularization of computer based software for undertaking these activities makes it necessary that data sets be available in such a form to be readily used on computers. Digital data have also the advantage that can be indexed and searched easily and, contrary to analog media, allow almost error-free and unlimited copying, an advantage that offsets the need to secure compatibility with rapidly evolving interfaces (magnetic tape, floppy disk, CD and other optical media, etc.)

WMO has been constantly working with countries to assist in rescuing their past records of hydrological data through VCP and WHYCOS projects. The WMO international data centre (such as GRDC, GPCC, HYDROLARE or IGRAC) also contribute to the preservation of internationally relevant data sets.

The Commission for Hydrology has also undertaken in 2008 a comprehensive assessment of activities in hydrological Data Rescue carried out by WMO members.




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