Data under duress? Two leaders on data preservation and access visiting IU Bloomington

Jan. 23, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two world leaders in the area of data curation, data sharing and preservation will be visiting Indiana University Bloomington as part of the School of Informatics and Computing Distinguished Speaker Series. The guest speakers -- Clifford Lynch and Francine Berman -- arrive on the heels of IU President Michael A. McRobbie’s recent announcement of a $15 million Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative at the university.

Researchers in the field at IU said no two experts could better underscore the importance of what McRobbie called IU’s effort to “digitize, preserve and make universally available by IU’s Bicentenary all of the time-based media objects on all campuses of IU judged important by experts” than Lynch, an American Society for Information past president and Award of Merit recipient, and Berman, a Library of Congress “Digital Preservation Pioneer.”

Both are computer scientists with impeccable credentials. Lynch was the director of library automation at University of California, Berkeley, before taking his current post as director of the Coalition for Networked Information, and Berman was director of the San Diego Supercomputing Center before taking a chair position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in order to found the Research Data Alliance. Both have publicly recognized the importance of managing and preserving intellectual and cultural records, that doing so requires infrastructure and economic support, and that current preservation systems are under enormous strain.

Lynch is a perfect choice to celebrate the breadth of expertise at the newly merged School of Informatics and Computing (with the former School of Library and Information Science) focused on two of the key forces driving contemporary society: information technology and digital information, said Distinguished Speaker Series Committee member Staša Milojević.

“Clifford Lynch celebrates that breadth: He is a tireless evangelist for data preservation, organization and curation, and he has contributed significantly to research in digital libraries, electronic publishing, open access and metadata -- areas and topics in which the Department of Information and Library Science is among the top-ranked programs in the nation,” said Milojević, an assistant professor whose work focuses on how scientific disciplines form, organize and develop. “In addition, he is a leading figure in areas of central interest to IU in general: how information technology and ‘big data’ can advance scholarship and learning, and how institutions of higher education and libraries must adapt to meet the new demands of our rapidly changing world.”

As director of the Coalition for Networked Information, Lynch heads a nearly 200-member organization sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE that is concerned with the intelligent uses of information technology and networked information to enhance scholarship and intellectual life. He will speak at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in State Room East of Indiana Memorial Union on the Bloomington campus; the event is free and open to the public.

Berman will visit the Bloomington campus Tuesday, Feb. 11, also as part of the School of Informatics and Computing Distinguished Speaker Series. Her free, public presentation will also take place at 3 p.m. in State Room East of IMU.

Called a tireless advocate in national efforts to recruit, retain and advance women in computer science, Berman is a pioneer in grid computing and one of two founding principal investigators of TeraGrid, the National Science Foundation network of supercomputing systems for which IU provides a variety of resources.

“Dr. Berman is a leading figure in data science,” said professor Beth Plale, director of IU’s Data to Insight Center. "She is one of a small group who founded the international Research Data Alliance, now at 1,000 members in one year of existence, and sits on its council. She has been a strong advocate for public access to research data, urgently stressing the need for the development of models for sharing the creation and cost of data infrastructure among public, private and academic sectors.”

As Berman herself wrote in a recent piece in the journal Science with Google Vice President Vint Cerf: “Technological and human infrastructure supporting data stewardship is a precondition to meaningful access and reuse, as ‘homeless’ data quickly become no data at all.”