Brussels, 02 Nov 2004
Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Maria van der Hoeven, has called for new efforts to secure the digital storage of scientific research, which, she claimed, currently resembles quicksand. She suggested that the concept be awarded more importance at European level and introduced as a priority in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research.
Ms van der Hoeven was speaking at a conference on long term access to digitally stored scientific publications in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 1 November. The combination of increased scientific publications and the growth of the information society means that it is now harder than ever to find one's way around the mass of recorded scientific knowledge, said the minister. And as the information society is continuously evolving, there is no guaranteeing that all of this information will be accessible in the future, she added.
'It is no exaggeration to say that the current environment for the digital storage of scientific publications is reminiscent of quicksand,' said Ms van der Hoeven. 'Research results are far from always stored in future-proof information systems. The basis for our scientific knowledge risks landing in the digital attic.'
The solution is for closer cooperation, both between all stakeholders (scientists, publishers, the information technology sector, libraries) and at an international level, according to Ms van der Hoeven.
The Netherlands has already begun to tackle the issue, and has developed e-depot. The Dutch National Library, in cooperation with IBM, has pioneered the initiative. It takes the form of a storage and retrieval system that automatically adapts to new technological developments. It automatically updates itself when computer programs, hardware and software are replaced.
The library has already signed agreements with five international publishers, and has received strong interest from others. The National Library is 'taking an important strategic step on behalf of the international research system,' said Ms van der Hoeven.
But this alone will not suffice, emphasised the minister. 'The e-depot should be an integral part of a European research infrastructure', so as to ensure the long term preservation of Europe's scientific heritage, she said.
For this reason, Ms van der Hoeven advocates pushing the theme higher up the European agenda in terms of the European Commission, the European Parliament and FP7. 'I think it would be good if, on our way to the Seventh Framework Programme, we found a place not only for familiar concepts like 'space' and 'security', but also for 'Tomorrow's Memory' - a memory not only of our cultural heritage, but also of our scientific heritage,' said Ms van der Hoeven.