IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
The Geological Survey of Alabama and the State Oil and Gas Board of Alabama (GSA/OGB) have been part of data preservation projects, including the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) and the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), for many years. These programs have allowed us to update inventories and database information, and replicate these essential records giving both in-house and off-site access. For example, we are updating our thin section records into a content model based on ones used for physical samples with NGDS. Motivation for this effort includes a desire to capture information before people involved in their initial description retire, as notation conventions by one researcher may not be comparable to another.
Yet many of the GSA/OGB physical object collections have been operating on a “maintain the status quo.” This has served us, and those who utilize our resources, quite well until recently. However, we were forced to confront our shortcomings with the untimely death of the manager of our core and sample repositories, Mr. Lewis Dean. In the days following his passing, it became critically important to update and map locations of some items in our core repository, one of our most important collections. We had minimal records for these recently accessioned cores, as much of the information was still part of Mr. Dean’s personal knowledge. It took several colleagues almost a week to update records to a point where we could continue minimal effective operations.
Timely acquisition of dataset information enables use, reuse, discovery, and preservation. Resignations, job re-assignments, death, computer crashes, natural disasters and record loss are not always predictable. Thus, we must act with alacrity to preserve this information if we are to best utilize the data resources we have already collected.