DataNet, a call for proposals.

Peter Brantley wrote to us to let us know that the National Sciecne Foundation office of Cyberinfrastructure has just released a call for proposals for the creation of A Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network (DataNet). This is a 100 million dollar round of funding to be distributed to five groups over five years, with a possible extension to the funding following on from that. You can view the proposal here. Peter has created a DataNet group on Nature Network to “to share interests, proffered expertise, desires to collaborate, and solicit Q&A regarding the recent NSF solicitation.”

After reading through the call for proposals it becomes clear how ambitious the NSF are in their thinking on this. The data under the remit of this call are any entities that can be represented digitally, from media files, to large databases to working code and tools. I’ve taken the following snippets from the proposal to illustrate where they are heading with this:

‘… presents a vision in which “science and engineering digital data are routinely deposited in well-documented form, are regularly and easily consulted and analyzed by specialists and non-specialists alike, are openly accessible while suitably protected, and are reliably preserved.” The goal of this solicitation is to catalyze the development of a system of science and engineering data collections that is open, extensible and evolvable.’ and ‘… to support analyses of data sets whose size or protection needs prevent their being moved to another site for analysis.’

They are concerned that the proposals presented provide solutions for managing digital resources over decades of time, and be able to adapt as technology changes. This proposal touches on so many issues that are of key interest. It ask questions of what the future of our digital heritage should look like, of how publishers should be streaming information into the collective pool of knowledge, how librarians should manage their collections, what the role of super-computing centres have to play in all of this. It is increasingly no longer sufficient for information to lie unconnected in one format, be that a journal article, database or a piece of code. Insight comes from the combination of data from diverse sources, and as more of these sources become digitised a unified system for accessing and combing these resources becomes more valuable, indeed possibly, necessary.

I’m really interested to see what proposals will emerge from this, so watch this space. The NSF are going to hold an informational meeting on the 6th of November and preliminary proposals are due in on the 8th of January 08. If you are interested in joining a discussion about this then head over to Peter’s Nature Network DataNet group.

I also noticed that Jon Udell has some interesting thoughts about this here in which he suggests that something akin to his idea for lifebits may form part of the solution.


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