Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The library of the future

We've arrived in the beautiful city of Rome for the very first World User Meeting held by the D4Science project.

After an evening taking in a few of the city's sites we're now safely settled in the Austria room at the FAO headquarters in Rome. Being the first meeting of this kind held by D4Science, these two days are an opportunity for the project to build upon the community who are going to use their infrastructure. It's a great chance for developers, implementers and users of the D4Science e-infrastructure to discuss their progress and ideas for the future.

So far this morning we've had a lot of discussion about the use of digital libraries, care of Peter Young from the Library of Congress and Sayeed Choudhury from John Hopkins University.

It's been estimated that more scientific data will be generated in the next 5 years that in the history of mankind. Understandably this throws up massive problems with regards to storage - without even taking account access and analysis. However making datasets available to other researchers both now and in the future could be hugely powerful, giving opportunities for new discoveries and potentially creating new fields of research.

More and more, a project's success is not simply measured in terms of its publications but also in terms of the data it makes available to a wider community. Keeping these datasets alive to share with others is a challenge but Peter and Sayeed believe that libraries can play a key role in this e-science paradigm.

The role of the library is changing - with greater focus now being placed on data curation rather than just preservation. As both speakers highlight, libraries need to move from the passive archival structures of the past towards the more active roles librarians are now taking on as data scientists. If we can engage libraries in making tools for e-science it could help us to store, access and use data in a sustainable and integrated way, across many different disciplines. By preserving and curating data in an interdisciplinary way we can pave the way for researchers to address the grand challenges of their subjects, allowing them to use data that may lie beyond their domains.

As a quick aside, these very such topics also crop up in the area of eHumanities - a subject which is discussed in an upcoming GridBriefing from GridTalk. So keep checking back for further info in the very near future!

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