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80 Percent of Scientific Data Gone in 20 Years

By Julie S | Dec 20, 2013 09:59 AM EST

80 Percent of Scientific Data Gone in 20 Years
A new study revealed that the scientific data have disappeared at an alarming rate. (Photo : Reuters)

A new study revealed that the scientific data have disappeared at an alarming rate.

Researchers led by Tim Vines, a visiting scholar from the University of British Columbia, found that 80 percent of all scientific data were lost in just a matter of two decades due to old email addresses and outdated storage devices.

The study which focused on tracking data accessibility over time, found out that earlier researchers failed to perform proper data preservation which caused the date to be lost over time.

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Researchers said that publicly funded studies are able to create an extraordinary amount of data per year. However, much to their disappointment, these data were not preserved very well which could be useful in further studies.

“Much of these data are unique to a time and place, and is thus irreplaceable, and many other datasets are expensive to regenerate. “The current system of leaving data with authors means that almost all of it is lost over time, unavailable for validation of the original results or to use for entirely new purposes.”, he added.

For the analysis, Vines and other researchers tried to collect data from a random set of 516 studies made between 1991 and 2011. They discovered that although the complete data set may be available during the year of publication, the possibility of access to data dropped by 17 percent a year after the publishing date.

To mitigate the loss of data, Vine is calling on all scientific journals to remind their authors to always upload their data on public archives before agreeing on publishing the study. This improves accessibility as well as aid in prolonging the longevity of the data collected.

“Losing data is a waste of research funds and it limits how we can do science,” Vines said. “Concerted action is needed to ensure it is saved for future research.”

This study was published in the December 19 issue of Current Biology.

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