Rescue of Old Data Offers Lesson for Particle Physicists

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Science  11 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6018, pp. 694-695
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6018.694

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Accustomed to working in large collaborations and moving swiftly on to bigger, better machines, particle physicists have no standard format for sharing or storing information after an experiment shuts down. Old data can end up scattered across the globe, stored haphazardly on old tapes, or lost entirely. This tendency has prompted some in the field to call for better care to be taken of data after an experiment has finished. For a very small fraction of the experiment's budget, they argue, data could be preserved in a form usable by later generations of physicists. To promote this strategy, researchers from a half-dozen major labs around the world, including CERN, formed a working group in 2009 called Data Preservation in High Energy Physics. One of the group's aims is to create the new post of "data archivist," someone within each experimental team who will ensure that information is properly managed.

* Andrew Curry is a freelance writer based in Berlin.

  • * Andrew Curry is a freelance writer based in Berlin.