Precarity and You #DataRefuge

After our first community meeting on December 7, as described in this blog post, today, we met with a group of researchers in Canada who witnessed first-hand how having a climate denier in office impacted accessibility to climate and environmental data. The "diminishing role of evidence in government decision-making" in Canada, led to the formation of Evidence for Democracy, a group of scholars, lawyers, policy-makers, and activists who are concerned with safeguarding information.

While the situation in the US is uncertain, the precautionary principle would suggest the need for action to safeguard access to data sooner rather than later.

We have been consulting with an array of scholars from fields ranging from climate modeling to arts activism in order to identify priorities given that we cannot download the internet.

In order to ensure that our work is most effective, we are circulating a survey to our inclusive community to help identify which data is of highest value locally. We hope that you take the time to respond to our survey if you work with federal climate and environmental data. 

As we work with collaborators to define our scope, we will attend to the relative vulnerability of datasets. Like initiatives such as the End of Term Harvesting Project, we are committed to providing seeds for the collection of websites and data. Here's what we know so far. 

  • Datasets and websites already backed up by seem to be least vulnerable
  • Datasets and applications available for download (e.g. PDFs) from federal agency websites that can be web-crawled, yet whose metadata (data about the data) needs creation, are moderately vulnerable
  • Datasets that require email-registration, special access or other kinds of human intervention are at the highest risk and are most vulnerable


As we move forward with our plans, we’ll look closely at both which datasets are most valued in our community, and where the greatest needs are. We are greatly indebted to our colleagues at the University of Toronto for their guidance on these concerns.


Or as Rage Against the Machine says:

What we don't know keep their contracts alive and movin'

They don't gotta burn the books they just remove them