December 2nd, 2014 | Tags : University of Montana, data | Category : Data in the Repository

Montana’s ScholarWorks Makes a Rich Set of Data Openly Available for Future Researchers

Undecipherable audio tapes, old filing cabinets, rusty paper clips—these are just a few of the challenges in University of Montana, Department of Geosciences, faculty affiliate Bob Lankston’s journey to recover and share a 40-year-old set of seismic data. The Flathead Lake Seismic Survey collection provides a unique opportunity for future researchers because so many new methods of processing the data have been developed in the intervening years. As Bob puts it, “this is the greatest visibility the data have had in the past 40 years and my biggest hope is that someone will find this collection and push forward with research using the new tools that are available.”

Bob’s graduate school office-mate had collected the data in question in 1970. It was several years later that Bob discovered the data being used by campus researchers. His interest piqued, Bob went back to explore the files and learned that much of the material was stashed away in old filing cabinets and that a lot of the data was now in an unusable format. Tracking down AV companies who could translate these files, and scanning fast-aging hand-written notes, Bob ultimately developed a complete collection of digital images and numerical tabulations of the data associated with the project.

As he looked for the best way to present the data, Bob joined forces with Wendy Walker, Assistant Professor and the Administrator for the school’s newly acquired IR, ScholarWorks. With a number of heterogeneous file types including bathymetry, survey maps, seismic sections, and the salvaged audio recordings, Bob and Wendy worked together to develop the best method to showcase the research. They ultimately decided on a creative use of the book gallery format because some of the data sets contained small audio or jpeg files. Each data set is posted as a separate ‘book’ and contains a unique record. Bob supplemented the metadata for each set with an attached narrative document, creating a very robust set of instructions for future users of this research.

After the data had been posted, Bob was contacted by an Italian researcher interested in using the .wav files of seismic data who wanted to play them as “music”—as Bob says, “you never know what value the data will take on once it becomes widely accessible.” Check out Digital Commons’ Data Management Resources page for more on data management, including guides suggesting talking points for conversations with faculty on data.