The current availability of biodiversity and ecosystem data is till too low to give us an adequate insight in the underlying processes that control the functioning of our ecosystems. Therefore it is crucial to fill in the spatial and temporal gaps in the data that is currently available to science. A large amount of historically collected data is still hidden in dusty closets and filing cabinets, on disks, tapes, cd-roms, etc.
Within the data archeology activities to be carried out during the LifeWatch construction phase, existing datasets will be resurfaced an the accessibility and visibility of the data will be improved for the scientific community. The envisaged data archeology strategy is schematically presented here and consists of the following steps:
1. Data inventory - The first step is to identify datasets that are relevant for LifeWatch, and to create a dataset inventory. Different pathways are being explored: (1) research publications and projects are screened, indicating type and structure of the data, timeframe, region, data owner, etc. Several sources are being addressed (e.g. the Belgian Marine Bibliography); (2) datasets are identified based on interviews with data collectors; (3) an expert group was established to discuss the marine data archeology process. Expert opinion is needed on the identification of relevant datasets, identification of the needs for future research and the data policy. Experts are experienced in the field of monitoring activities, marine research questions and future developments within marine research.
2. Prioritization - Next, a priority list of datasets is distilled from the inventory, based on relevance and scope, risk of loss, ease of digitization and the expert insights.
3. Data capture – After prioritization, data owners are contacted to establish the availability of the datasets. Recently generated data is stored in formats and databases, but data files from past projects or theses often disappear or only exist as a paper version. Data are being digitized in a standard data format. Data files that are already digitally available are being reformatted in the same standard data format.
4. Metadata generation – After data capture, the dataset is described in the Integrated Marine Information System (IMIS) and disclosed through the LifeWatch website.
5. Data integration and archiving – Data stored in the standard data formats is integrated in the LifeWatch data systems. Standardization and specific quality control procedures will be incorporated in the integration process. The data formats are archived in the Marine Data Archive (MDA) to ensure availability for future research.
6. Data accessibility – Data will be made available through the LifeWatch infrastructure. Every time a new data set is made available, a news message is posted on the LifeWatch.be homepage. This contributes to the real time character of the LifeWatch.be portal.
Result of the marine data archeology activities can be seen here.