Volume 16, Number 3
Science gets Preservation Attention
- The literature of science nowadays is heavily illustrated.
Geography has maps and Landsat photographs of the earth; astronomy
has more photographs of the sky, in all wave lengths, than anyone
will ever look at; climatology has computerized maps of the world's
weather for into the future; anthropology has movies of primitive
peoples; and so on. The records of science depend on visual
representations just as heavily as the record of art does, and their
preservation has been held up partly by the absence of a good way to
copy or otherwise preserve those visual representations.
The Getty Grant Program has funded a project to preserve 29 numbers
of the New York State Museum Bulletin, which embody all
the challenges: they are old, valuable brittle, heavily illustrated and
currently much used. They will be preserved three ways: by microfilming
in color and in black and white, putting selected color plates on 105
mm film; by digitizing the color microfilm images and creating enlarged
reproductions on color printers; and by putting them on CD-ROM discs
with keyword searching The Commission on Preservation and Access
contracted with MAPS (Micrographic Preservation Service) to carry out
the project, and MAPS will subcontract the color microfilming work with
Herrmann & Kraemer, the company that supplies MAPS'
state-of-the-art microfilm cameras. The idea came from the Joint Task
Force on Text and Image, whose published final report, Preserving
the Illustrated Text, does a good job of defining present
capabilities and future possibilities, and makes good but
unconventional recommendations for preservation strategies in the
- The National Archives has been planning and meeting with
advisors on the long-term retention of scientific and technical
records from governmental agencies. The focus of discussion has been
the feasibility of general retention guidelines, rather than
preservation as such, but preservation policies and methods are
affected by two of the factors that the Archives also has to
consider for records retention: the nature of the records and the
needs of the users. The ARL Newsletter for March 2,
1992, has a short report of the January 29-30 planning meeting,
which was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. These are
some of the points that were made at that meeting:
- Users prefer that information, whatever the format be
replicated, distributed, and serviced from a number of information
facilities rather than just one central location. Regional
distribution places researchers closer to the source of information,
and protects the nation's data in the event of disaster.
- High-technology data, such as observational and mapping sets,
present special challengers with amount of data and length of
retention identified as critical decisions.
- Since it is not clear how current data will be used even 25
years from now, as much "good" information as possible should be
retained, "just in case."
- High-tech data needs to be medium-independent, i.e.,
transferrable (and diligently transferred) into new formats and
technologies as they become practical.
- There are too many science publications. This is definitely a
preservation problem, though when the European Association of
Science Editors (EASE) met in Oxford last September and discussed
the flood of science papers, they saw it as an "information glut."
However it is viewed, the cause is the academic merit system based
on total publication record--"publish or perish." The editors passed
a resolution to work toward changing that system, according to the
March 2 ARL Newsletter. Elsewhere, it has been noted
that about 50% of all science papers are mere restatements of the
authors' previous publications, or worthless. Perhaps EASE could use
some support and encouragement from the preservation field.