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From the Field to the Cloud: A Review of Three Approaches to Sharing Historical Data From Field Stations Using Principles From Data Science


Historical data play an important role in our understanding of environmental change and ecosystem dynamics. By lengthening the temporal scale of scientific inquiry, historical data reveal insights into the dynamic nature of ecosystems. However, most historical data has yet to make a full contribution, remaining "dark" and out of reach to the broader scientific community. This article responds to several calls stressing the importance of empirical historical materials and urges their preservation and accessibility. Despite the importance of historical data collections, few standards have emerged to integrate historical dark data into the larger digital data landscape. To encourage greater use of historical data across scientific disciplines it is vital to make data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (e.g., the FAIR principles). In this paper we discuss the potential of historical dark data to contribute to the modern digital ecological data landscape. We do this by focusing on three cases from the University of California field and research stations and the groups that have worked to make historical dark data discoverable. Despite the common goal of maximizing the potential use of these data collections, each case and the methods employed are unique, and showcase varying levels of success in achieving the FAIR principles and shepherding historical data into the twenty-first century.

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