Scott Pruitt’s First Address to the EPA: As Annotated by EDGI

Below you will find an annotated guide to Scott Pruitt’s first address to the EPA on behalf of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative. With the attached annotated commentary, we at EDGI seek to explicate and decode the messages sent by the new Administrator.

Scott-Pruitts-First-Address-to-the-EPA-2-21-2017-An-Annotated-Version-v2

Please feel free to use this report as a resource and disseminate more widely to others who may be interested. And please refer to Prof. Christopher Sellers (chrissellersedgi@gmail.com) as the point of contact

 

 

Protecting Climate Data in Times of Political Turmoil – A Report from Los Angeles

by  The Southern California Climate Data Protection Project https://www.climatedataprotection.net/

 

Countless historic settings have demanded archiving as a politically urgent tactic. In Nazi Germany individuals risked their lives smuggling suitcases of scholarly documents out of the country and into archives elsewhere, which is why we can now access the collected works of Edmund Husserl and Walter Benjamin. Archiving can also be a communal act of political visibility. The Mazer Lesbian Archive accumulated during the 80s in a house in Altadena, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, by the work of volunteers dedicated to documenting largely unseen, unheard lesbian society. All of these elusive collections wound their way into institutions – Husserl’s at the University of Louvain, Benjamin’s at the Biblioteque Nationale, and Mazer at UCLA starting in 2009.

With DataRefuge, we see a different trajectory. Institutionally centralized scientific data, documents, and webpages are currently being dispersed into an international patchwork of nonprofit and for-profit repositories, using a coordinated array of largely in-situ archival tactics of web scraping, mirroring, and data harvesting. Certain information on federal websites such as the EPA’s have already vanished from public view – though copies remain on the Internet Archive – and while we wait to see whether anything else will disappear, this preemptive, federated guerrilla archiving work continues in order to outpace any further changes.

At UCLA, we became one prong of this ongoing effort. With a crew of four core organizers, a modest budget, and about a dozen other volunteers, we scheduled a panel and set of workshops for January 20th, 2017. To get oriented we reached out to Michelle Murphy at the University of Toronto, then Laurie Allen and Bethany Wiggin at the University of Pennsylvania, who generously shared the lessons of the work they and their affiliates had already done to launch EDGI and DataRefuge. Mike Hucka, a researcher at Cal Tech concerned about the long-term vulnerabilities of digital content, attended DataRescue Philly at U Penn held on January 13th and came back with a well-rounded understanding of the logistical and technical steps involved. We would spend Donald Trump’s inauguration day ‘rescuing’ scientific information the new president flatly denies.

Thinking Longitudinally

The 20th brought hard rain (by LA standards) and over 60 participants to UCLA’s Information School for the DataRescue. The morning began with panelists making an appeal to think longitudinally and save everything as a default mode (the operational mantra of the Internet Archive). Hard-won data gathered during storms from the sides of a doused, pitching boat – as shown in vivid photos by panelist Steve Diggs from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego – need long-term care that, according to Diggs, “outlive opinions and hypotheses.” Professor Christine Borgman, of UCLA Information Studies, warned that “If we don’t have data, we don’t have a problem,” since part of the significance of research data lies in its ability to serve as evidence of complex, sometimes intangible dilemmas. Jason Scott of the Internet Archive described the neglect of archiving and preserving information as a barrier to adequately processing the present time – he advocated for the save-everything method as a key expression of activist preservation.

Speaking last, Joan Donovan, from UCLA’s Center of Society and Genetics, introduced the idea of decentralization of data as an activist practice and protest tactic, a specific form of scientific activism. Though she pointed out potential pitfalls of data decentralization done without proper accountability and constant vigilance, Donovan argued that it could provide an opportunity to organize science more effectively. Activist tenets should remain a guiding force in data decentralization efforts such as DataRefuge, in order to keep the fight against post-truth agendas and the deconstruction of ‘facts’.

The Workshops

For the rest of the day participants settled into one of four workshops. Most – around forty or so – attended the Archive-a-thon group, where facilitators introduced the Internet Archive nomination tool. The group focused on nominating websites from the Department of Energy, using documents provided through DataRefuge and EDGI resources. Lead facilitator Mike Hucka estimated that the participants of the workshop nominated about four pages per minute, ultimately nominating – or ‘seeding’ – 568 unique URLs. A number of people also experimented with scraping and were able to upload an uncrawlable dataset to the CKAN repository.

Other workshops were more conversational. “Best Practices for Archiving Scientific Data” discussed the current archiving practices and affordances of the Internet Archive, pinpointing issues in accessibility and usability of the data stored there. The group analyzed specific search functions and metadata structures and opened up a path for future opportunities in planning a more effective metadata structure for the archive. Another workshop, “Protecting Climate Data Over the Long Haul,” focused on producing a research agenda for future climate data protection efforts. The group also began a bibliography of relevant texts and resources to be used in future research on climate change data infrastructures.

“Citizen Data Advocacy, or An Intervention Toolkit for Those Who Care About Facts and Data” planned the components of a toolkit that interested citizens could use to get involved in the data protection movement in various ways, such as applying administrative pressure through letter writing and calling campaigns, and generally communicating concerns about environmental issues with local and federal governmental staff and institutions. The Toolkit is now available on our website, and we’ll be using it to design pamphlets to hand out at future events.

Onward!

The guerrilla archiving tactics offered to us by the folks at U Penn, U Toronto, and elsewhere continue to ignite events around the country (just as Trump’s latest executive order rapidly converted airports into protest zones) – just today there are seven upcoming DataRescues listed, and another at Berkeley in the works. Our own event generated ample publicity and momentum from participants and others eager to help. Currently, we’re in talks to orchestrate another DataRescue at the UCLA Community Schools and have plans with the UCLA library to conduct half-day workshops on the basics of web archiving, still focusing on climate change data. We hope to work with EDGI to craft a longer-term agenda that can carry on over the next four years of what many expect to be an ongoing struggle between ‘alternative facts’ and the established rigors of scientific work, paired with the long-term preservation required to maintain the social value of research on important environmental questions that affect us all.


We thank everyone who helped us with our UCLA-branch of this federated effort and look forward to more coordinated, decentralized, civic-minded, activist-spirited archival work as we move forward.

Environmental Data, Guerrilla Archiving, and the Trump Transition

by Jerome Whitington

Re-blogged from Cultural Anthropology Dispatches January 17, 2017.

Many of Donald Trump’s disinformation tactics go in two related directions: grandiose promises to rally his base, and trolling or decoy statements meant to incite but confuse his enemies. The promise to build a wall with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it does both at once. Such “politics in the age of troll,” as one anthropologist put it at the recent annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, forces the political opposition to constantly question which of Trump’s bombastic proposals need to be taken seriously, while giving Trump a ready excuse for abruptly changing direction. Call it a politics of disorientation: confuse one’s enemies while simultaneously orienting an atavistic surge of populist loyalty.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, Trump’s approach is crystal-clear. The list of his appointments speaks unambiguously to radical deregulation: climate denier and attack dog Marion Ebell; Scott Pruitt, who brought us Oklahoma fracking earthquakes; Koch Industries lobbyist Thomas Pyle; and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

That’s the short list. What’s more, all indications show that the Trump administration will work rapidly to adopt a wide-ranging body of think-tank conservatism in the form of specific proposals for rolling back federal environmental policy. All signs point toward a wholesale attack on environmental governance. When we ignore what Trump says and watch what he does, there is no confusion.

Through a project we call #DataRescue, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) has formed as an organized response to this rollback. Because access to and control over data is a key piece of effective regulation, we have taken action to systematically archive valuable environmental datasets, create usable nongovernmental data access, and preserve records of wide-ranging, ephemeral, web-based policy and program information. This monitoring and tracking work has also created an opportunity for providing rapid analysis of environmental regulation during the transition. Formed as a decentralized team of about forty social scientists and researchers immediately after the election, EDGI has focused on these two primary goals: documenting and analyzing the transition, and rescuing federally maintained data.

We started with a prominent guerrilla archiving event at the University of Toronto, organized by founding members Michelle Murphy, Patrick Kielty, and Matt Price, which attracted prominent media attention from the Washington Post, BBC, and other media. With extensive involvement from librarians and computer programmers, the initiative brings together expertise on environmental politics—especially environmental justice—with archival, data management, and software development skills. Our approach is to rely on existing tools as much as possible, while creating open-source tools and protocols as needed. With more than one hundred participants, the Toronto event nominated over three thousand pages on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website to the End of Term Archive, developed a browser extension to streamline the data harvesting process, and worked on other software and protocols to better orchestrate future efforts. One outcome is that the EPA is now the best represented agency in the End of Term Archive; we also now have a website, funding support, and a toolkit that will make it much easier to organize subsequent events.

Public archiving events take advantage of our lead members’ wide geographical spread. One powerful subsequent event was hosted by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, which created the #DataRescue tag. The team at the University of Pennsylvania, collaborating with EDGI members, is developing further tools for handling data that does not fit into the End of Term Archive and for linking efforts between events to avoid gaps and duplication. Further events are planned for Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and New York City, targeting data hosted by bodies like the Department of Energy and NASA. Through a commitment to open-source and free software principles, these events maintain a decentralized character in which different groups can focus on policy areas and infrastructure priorities that fit their interests and skills.

The fact that data is the object of this initiative—and not, say, regulation—should give anthropologists pause. One might argue that the #DataRescue project is a defensive effort meant to prop up the status quo, namely, the prominent role of data in neoliberal environmental governance. As Michelle Murphy (2013) has shown, neoliberal environmental governance works through monitoring and publicly accessible data that communities can use to organize themselves. (Consider the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan as an especially public instance of this.) In this context, we are in the difficult position of trying to shore up this data-centric approach, fully aware that environmental data and public participation are too easily fetishized. At the same time, we demand a positive vision of transparent environmental governance in which federal regulations ensure access to safe environments.

Furthermore, systematic data collection holds a distinctive place in science-based regulation, as we know from debates about climate change. Here, we see what Murphy calls the politics of imperceptibility. Much toxic pollution is insensible without particular instrumentation or, in the case of climate change, planetary-scale data efforts. Anyone with experience trying to enforce regulations in, say, the Appalachian coal fields will be familiar with a long history of legal failures in the face of insufficient evidence. This politics of evidence dovetails with histories of racial and class-based marginalization. Institutionally, it is easy enough to undermine data by defunding IT systems and data maintenance, or simply by reassigning key staff working on controversial topics. One insidious tactic is to demand rigorous science while cutting funding, and then claim that existing data does not pass muster. As toxic exposure and climate risk are made literally invisible by systemic erasure, environmental justice means something as straightforward as the ability to enforce existing laws.

Securing data access against the onslaught of deregulation is clearly only part of what is necessary. Yet, by doing this work, we are in the position to analyze Trump’s approach to the environment in concrete terms, hopefully with a relatively rapid analysis of the transition. We plan to produce a white paper on the first one hundred days of the administration. At the same time, we have been forced to contend in detail with the organization of federal environmental policy, what data should be prioritized, and what our responsibilities are for developing archiving and access tools. It is worth pointing out that this reflexive work is integral to all work with data, and helps demonstrate how data are integrated into the warp and weft of contemporary social organization. Another way of saying this, to echo Kim Fortun, is that informating environmentalism needs to be at the heart of how anthropologists take up late industrialism’s toxic consequences. Through the final stretch of the election, the Democratic platform rested partly on the claim that Trump was not fit for office. But his environmental policy shows that this concern may be a distraction: like his support for organized white supremacy, it is not Trump’s flamboyant person but the forces he has empowered that will constitute his lasting legacy.

Reference

Murphy, Michelle. 2008. “Chemical Regimes of Living.” Environmental History 13, no. 4: 695–703.

 

Blog Post Citation:

Whitington, Jerome. “Environmental Data, Guerrilla Archiving, and the Trump Transition.” Dispatches,Cultural Anthropology website, January 17, 2017. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1048-environmental-data-guerrilla-archiving-and-the-trump-transition

Building an Archive of Vulnerability: #GuerrillaArchiving at #UofT

BY ANDREA MUEHLEBACH

Reblogged from PPEHLAB

Let me start with the basic fact of how important it is, perhaps now more than ever, to assemble bodies collectively in place with the goal of acting and being together politically. The #guerrillaarchiving event at the University of Toronto was such a place. More than a hundred of us, mostly strangers who barely knew each others’ names, gathered to begin the formation of a counterpublic dedicated to the protection of environmental science. Why in Canada? Well, our last prime minister Stephen Harper, a conservative who for years quietly dismantled mayor Canadian environmental regulations, did precisely what environmentalists now worry Trump will do: dismantle parts of the EPA, shutter programs, make requests for information increasingly difficult or refuse them altogether. Canadians today look back on the wreckage of eight years of anti-science politics that saw government scientists banned from speaking to the public and that had decades of environmental studies destroyed. Many of us remember the gut-wrenching images of dumpsters spilling over with papers when Harper decided to close entire libraries from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013. All of that acquatic research, an almost entirely non-digitized 600.000 volume collection reaching back to the 1880s, literally trashed. Libricide suddenly became a thing. In Canada.

So let there be no mistake. #Guerrillaarchiving at #UofT was about much more than Trump. We all know that we’re in the midst of what Stephen Colbert long ago called an era of truthiness which comes in all sorts of frightening figures of anti-science. Some appear in the shape of a flamboyant orange buffoon who trashes truth because it’s elitist or, well, just because. Others appear as drab, grey bureaucrats who trash knowledge in the name of austerity. If this anti-science creep is happening in different places and under different guises, #Guerrillaarchiving helped make clear that though we need to focus on the coming darkness of 2017, we also need to move away from the eventfulness of Trump and think more about chronicity and what it means to act collectively in light of this chronicity. What does it mean to move away from presumptions about Trump’s irrationality to recognize the deeper, darker shift we find ourselves in today? How to develop a common weaponry that allows for the kind of collective mobilizations necessary in these times?

#Guerrillaarchiving began with the building of an initial infrastructure for a pro-science techno-political formation. It treated environmental knowledge as a commons and so also contributed to a rethinking of the proprietary regimes that a lot of science is based on. As the organizers Michelle Murphy, Matt Price, and Patrick Keilty put it, the knowledge the hackathon is trying to archive does not belong solely to the EPA or U.S. citizens. Rather, “we share waters; we share atmospheres,” as Murphy put it. “The stakes of environmental pollution are planetary.” The point is to claim knowledge since it belongs to us, the public; us humans and, of course, to non-humans as well. The political form we saw emerge that day was therefore also borderless from the start. People had come from both Canada and the U.S. and put their heads together in three groups: The first identified vulnerable EPA data; the second was hackers focusing on how to get to different kinds of data, where and how to store extremely large as well as very tiny data sets, and even what part of this archiving can be done by humans, what by machines. The third group worked on guides, protocols, and toolkits for archiving the data in ways that will allow for cross-border collaboration. The question was thus also one of modularity and replicability: What elements and tools can be taken up and circulated beyond this event’s immediate confines, to places like Philadelphia, LA, and NYC where similar events are planned? How to create a tool-kit ready to circulate into future archiving events?

#Guerrillaarchiving started to develop this archive of vulnerability; a kind of alter-ego to the EPA website where the EPA’s most vulnerable data will be stored. But how to define vulnerability? That initially seemed simple since Trump and allies have already identified a number of EPA programs for defunding or elimination. Group 1 therefore scoured the web to see what threats had been missed or what statements Trump’s team might have made in the past that might indicate threats in the future. But there is technical vulnerability too. The EPA website is massive. The sheer volume and unwieldiness of the data, built incrementally over decades, is compounded by the fact that there exists no EPA site map and that a lot of data spills over its confines since it’s stored off-site, often also in document types that don’t end in .gov and are thus outside of the government repository. Other data is not easily crawlable since access to it needs to be requested or requires a specific program to be opened. Because of the depth of the site, the webcrawler was mostly capturing surface data, barely moving beyond three or four links in the search chain. Vulnerability thus needed to be sought in locations the webcrawler would have problems getting to. Group 3, tasked among other things with making a vulnerability assessment tool, had additional long conversations. Was the most vulnerable and valuable scientific data best defined by topic or by data type? Does value lie in processed or raw data (which harbors more potentiality for future research)? Or should data useful to vulnerable groups – like indigenous groups living on land criss-crossed by pipelines – be privileged? What about maps? Where was the data these maps were based on?

Defining vulnerability is do-able. And yet there are moments when attempts to do so appeared more like a divinatory exercise. How can we anticipate vulnerability and where it will lie? The hackathon was about archiving, but it was also about generating a collective habitus around vigilance, an active and anticipatory rather than reactive kind of politics within a larger, longer, and difficult war of position.

And yet, finally, we also can’t forget that digital data is only a fraction of the data we have. All U.S. states have their own regional EPA offices and have libraries that need to be visited for photocopies and scans. Librarians need to be coaxed into lugging huge folders out from the stacks; sometimes, as is the case in Virginia, data can only be accessed if you are a taxpaying citizen of the state. Some precious data on, say, water rights is in fact not even controlled by the state EPA office but exists under the jurisdiction of the local railroad corporation, as is the case in Texas. It’s not digitized because railroad permits (to which water permits are linked in Texas) were never digitized. While these libraries are far beyond the purview of the hackathon, we can’t forget that these kinds of data are perhaps the most vulnerable of all. We know from Canada that these libraries can easily die.

What I take from the hackathon is that there’s nothing immanent to the data, no politics or value per se, if it’s not mobilized and used and valued in particular ways. This is what the hackathon has already achieved: It began a process of archiving data while also gathering together a public that cares about data. How then do we think of this event not only as a technical meet-up but as a possibility for building a larger and durable transnational public around the anticipation and protection of vulnerable data? We have the technical capacities, but what of the collective energies captured and engendered by this event? One message, at the very least, was sent, resoundingly: We will not go silently into the night. Instead, we have assembled to begin to make this data common, durable, and accessible. The task is to keep going, to stay vigilant, and to gather together, politically, in more consistent ways.

Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Kevin Burke, Natasha Meyers, Michelle Murphy, Sunit Mohindroo, and Jerome Whitington, for conversation and comradeship.

Andrea Muehlebach is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Field Report: Safeguarding environmental data through “Guerrilla Archiving” post by Jessica Caporusso (York University)

 

As numerous reports have increasingly made clear, environmental data is at risk. Under the threat of a science-adverse Trump administration, researchers and members of the public are concerned that government datasets could be altered, manipulated or removed from the public domain—a move that could effectively undermine their efficacy in producing sound, empirical evidence-based policy.

What can be done to prevent the disappearance of vital, public datasets and websites? How can we actively resist such a future through creative collaboration? One possible solution is to archive vulnerable environmental data and program websites onto independent servers, such as the Internet Archive.

On December 17th, 2016, a collectivity of approximately 150 students, scholars, activists, coders and members of the general public did just this.

Despite the inclement weather, we converged at the University of Toronto’s School of Information to answer an important call-to-action. “Guerrilla Archiving,”—a grassroots archive-a-thon organized by the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI) and the Technoscience Research Unit (TSRU)—aimed to preserve vulnerable and valuable environmental data in a time of impending threats to environmental research. Spurred on by an increasingly hostile anti-science political climate brewing in the United States, the community devised strategies to identify, locate and seed data from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Internet Archive’s End of Term 2016 Project.

How did we do this?

Over the span of several hours, we co-developed a protocol and a politics grass-roots archiving. Volunteers self-organized into five teams: researchers were responsible for tracking and identifying vulnerable EPA programs and datasets; coders, including members of the Civic Tech TO community, created six tools and scripts for scraping data from the EPA website and fed URLs into the Internet Archive’s Webcrawler; protocol developers devised critical components of a procedural toolkit for future archiving events; ethnographers used qualitative analysis through thick description to document the entire process; and the social media team broadcast our efforts in real-time over several platforms, including Twitter (#EDGI, #GuerrillaArchiving, #DataRescue), Facebook, and Instagram.

How did we do?

The event successfully seeded 3142 URLs to the End of Term 2016 Project, and earmarked 192 vulnerable programs for archiving. Additionally, we drafted several key components for our toolkit that can be used in future events. More importantly, as praxis, Guerrilla Archiving sparked a grassroots conversation between scientists, coders, students, and members of the public—a conversation that provided both a lexicon and means by which to resist the prospect of losing irreplaceable environmental data. We were joined by colleagues from the #DataRefuge Project in Philadelphia and by EDGI-member Jerome Whittington from New York, who we are both hosting future events. The creative commons toolkit for events kick-started by the EDGI team will be available soon online through their websites.

Stay tuned for future calls to action and events to follow.

Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump – The Washington Post


A satellite image of Hurricane Otto approaching the coast of Central America on Nov. 24. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.

“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” said Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, who over the weekend began copying government climate data onto a nongovernment server, where it will remain available to the public. “Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”

In recent weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a growing list of Cabinet members who have questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus around global warming. His transition team at the Department of Energy has asked agency officials for names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and worked on the scientific basis for Obama administration-era regulations of carbon emissions. One Trump adviser suggested that NASA no longer should conduct climate research and instead should focus on space exploration.

The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

Those moves have stoked fears among the scientific community that Trump, who has called the notion of man-made climate change “a hoax” and vowed to reverse environmental policies put in place by President Obama, could try to alter or dismantle parts of the federal government’s repository of data on everything from rising sea levels to the number of wildfires in the country.

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, argued that Trump has appointed a “band of climate conspiracy theorists” to run transition efforts at various agencies, along with nominees to lead them who share similar views.

“They have been salivating at the possibility of dismantling federal climate research programs for years. It’s not unreasonable to think they would want to take down the very data that they dispute,” Halpern said in an email. “There is a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, and scientists are doing their best to be prepared. . . . Scientists are right to preserve data and archive websites before those who want to dismantle federal climate change research programs storm the castle.”

To be clear, neither Trump nor his transition team have said the new administration plans to manipulate or curtail publicly available data. The transition team did not respond to a request for comment. But some scientists aren’t taking any chances.

“What are the most important .gov climate assets?” Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and self-proclaimed “climate hawk,” tweeted from his Arizona home Saturday evening. “Scientists: Do you have a US .gov climate database that you don’t want to see disappear?”

Within hours, responses flooded in from around the country. Scientists added links to dozens of government databases to a Google spreadsheet. Investors offered to help fund efforts to copy and safeguard key climate data. Lawyers offered pro bono legal help. Database experts offered server space and help organizing mountains of data. In California, Santos began building an online repository to “make sure these data sets remain freely and broadly accessible.”

Climate data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been politically vulnerable. When Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information, and his colleagues published a study in 2015 seeking to challenge the idea that there had been a global warming “slowdown” or “pause” during the 2000s, they relied, in significant part, on updates to NOAA’s ocean temperature data set, saying the data “do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus.’”

In response, the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee chair, Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.), tried to subpoena the scientists and their records.

That effort launched by Holthaus is one of several underway to preserve key federal scientific data.

In Philadelphia, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, along with members of groups such as Open Data Philly and the software company Azavea, have been meeting to figure out ways to harvest and store important data sets.

At the University of Toronto this weekend, researchers are holding what they call a “guerrilla archiving” event to catalogue key federal environmental data ahead of Trump’s inauguration. The event “is focused on preserving information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has programs and data at high risk of being removed from online public access or even deleted,” the organizers said. “This includes climate change, water, air, toxics programs.”

The event is part of a broader effort to help San Francisco-based Internet Archive with its End of Term 2016 project, an effort by university, government and nonprofit officials to find and archive valuable pages on federal websites. The project has existed through several presidential transitions.

At the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco, where more than 20,000 earth and climate scientists have swarmed the city’s biggest conference center this week, an air of gallows humor marked many conversations. Some young scientists said their biggest personal concern is funding for their research, much of which relies on support from NASA and other agencies.

“You just don’t know what’s coming,” said Adam Campbell, who studies the imperiled Ross Ice Shelf of Antarctica.

But others also arrived at the meeting with a strengthened sense of resolve. Campbell was planning to join hundreds of other people at a rally Tuesday, organized in part by the activist group ClimateTruth.org, encouraging researchers to “stand up for science.” “People have felt a call to arms,” Campbell said. “We need to be outspoken.”

Donald Trump will enter the White House with an environmental policy agenda opposed to that of the Obama administration and many other nations that have pledged support to the Paris climate agreement. The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney breaks down what a Donald Trump presidency will mean when it comes to climate change. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Lawyers with the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund — which provides legal assistance to researchers facing lawsuits over their work on climate change — will be holding one-on-one consultations with researchers who think they might need help from a lawyer. And the organization’s table in the AGU exhibition hall is piled high with booklets titled “Handling Political Harassment and Legal Intimidation: A Pocket Guide for Scientists.”

“We literally thought about it the day after the election,” said Lauren Kurtz, the legal defense fund’s executive director. “I have gotten a lot of calls from scientists who are really concerned. . . . So it’s intended in some ways to be reassuring, to say, ‘There is a game plan; we’re here to help you.’”

The 16-page guide contains advice for government researchers who believe their work is being suppressed, as well as how scientists should react if they receive hate mail or death threats.

Holthaus, who encouraged scientists to flag key databases, said the effort to safeguard them is mostly precautionary.

“I don’t actually think that it will happen,” he said of efforts by an incoming administration to obscure or alter scientific data. “But I think it could happen. . . . All of these data sets are priceless, in the sense that if there is a gap, it greatly diminishes their usefulness.”

That’s the main concern for Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. He said he doubts that even the most hostile administration would try to do away with existing climate data, given the potential backlash.

“I think it’s much more likely they’d try to end the collection of data, which would minimize its value. Having continuous data is crucial for understanding long-term trends,” Dessler said. “Trends are what climate change is about — understanding these long-term changes. Think about how much better off the people who don’t want to do anything about climate change would be if all the long-term temperature trends didn’t exist.”

He added, “If you can just get rid of the data, you’re in a stronger position to argue we should do nothing about climate change.”

Chris Mooney in Washington and Sarah Kaplan in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Read more at Energy & Environment:

The Arctic just had its warmest year on record ‘by far,’ scientists report

Trump names Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general suing EPA on climate change, to head the EPA

Atmospheric levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are spiking, scientists report

Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings

For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.

Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump – The Washington Post.

Source: Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump – The Washington Post

Copying countdown: How scientists plan to save climate data from Trump – CSMonitor.com

 

Scientists from around the country are preparing to copy government climate records onto independent servers, even in Canada, in order to maintain a copy out of the reach of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

While a proposed backup of this magnitude might have seemed paranoid a few months ago, a growing number of scientists have expressed their concerns over Mr. Trump’s negative and often hostile views on human-caused climate change. On a number of occasions, Trump has called the phenomenon a “hoax,” despite a near-consensus among scientists on the reality of global warming.

The data-copying event will include publicly available government data as well as “.gov” webpages. While the so-called Internet Archive also preserved end-of-term records in 2008 and 2012, this transition has more at stake than previous backups, concerned environmental researchers say, pointing to Trump’s cabinet nominees, which include climate change skeptics, or figures tapped to run departments they have publicly criticized. Rick Perry, for example, the former Texas governor selected for energy secretary, said in a 2011 debate that he would eliminate the department.

A “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto will kick off the heightened effort.

“This event is focused on preserving information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has programs and data at high risk of being removed from online public access or even deleted,” says a statement from the University of Toronto. “This includes climate change, water, air, toxics programs. This project is urgent because the Trump transition team has identified the EPA and other environmental programs as priorities for the chopping block.”

The event is part of a greater effort by the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit “library” of old web pages and other documents preserved for online viewing. At the end of every presidential term, the archive collects important government web sites that they believe are at risk of deletion by the next administration.

“The statements by Trump on the campaign trail…have ramped us into higher gear, moving us further and faster than we would have,” says a post from the Internet Archive Blogs, citing, as one example, the then-candidate’s comments about “closing parts of the internet.” “The election led us to think bigger.”

News of the archival effort comes after the Department of Energy refused the Trump team’s request to identify the names of specific climate change scientists, as The Christian Science Monitor previously reported. But for many scientists, worries about their own job security under Trump pale in comparison with the environmental consequences of ignoring climate change.

“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, told The Washington Post. “Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”

By copying information onto independent servers in Canada, the data and websites on climate change research would have an extra layer of protection against Trump in the event of deletion in the US, says Villanova University computing sciences professor Henry Carter.

“Moving data to another country would be an effective means for preserving it in the event of the new administration actually deciding to delete climate records,” Dr. Carter tells the Christian Science Monitor in an email. “It has been notoriously difficult for the American legal system to stop copyright infringement and digital piracy happening in foreign countries. Demanding that another country delete this climate data seems even more difficult, since storing this data doesn’t seem to break any laws (assuming the data is publicly available anyway).”

Jody Roberts and Nicholas Shapiro, two of the researchers involved in the process of establishing a network for collecting and preserving access to EPA data, tell the Monitor that this would not be the first time access to climate research was restricted by a US president. During President George W. Bush’s administration, many Environmental Protection Agency libraries were shut down, and there were multiple accusations that government publications on climate change had been edited to change their meaning.

“The idea of storing the information elsewhere emphasizes the need to preserve access to information in the present and for the future. This is why the threat to close EPA libraries under [George W. Bush] was so profound,” Dr. Roberts and Dr. Shapiro tell the Monitor in an email. “It is important for this reason to note that many of the individuals involved in these current activities are not scientists but social scientists, historians, archivists, and the like who understand that this about more than censorship; this is about permanently altering the record for the future.”

 

Copying countdown: How scientists plan to save climate data from Trump – CSMonitor.com.

Source: Copying countdown: How scientists plan to save climate data from Trump – CSMonitor.com

Our first archive-a-thon tomorrow!

We are almost at 40 members! In just a couple weeks we have grown tremendously and received a wellspring of support. Our team now spans many institutions: Northeastern University, University of Pennsylvania, SUNY Stoney Brook, UCSC, NYU, University of Indiana, Drexel, Columbia,  Johns Hopkins, U of Michigan,  Bennington,  UC Davis, University of Colorado, Whitman, Rice, U of Toronto, Yale.

Members in Toronto and Philadelphia began work today at 4:30 am in preparation for our first event tomorrow. Don’t forget to RSVP!! We have over 115 participants that have pledged to show up and over 450 others that say they might attend. The event has received more media attention than any event in U of T history (or at least as far as institutional memory goes back).

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter for live updates @EnviroDGI 

More press than we can keep track of!

Yesterday Michelle Murphy, who is leading our Toronto event, fielded interviews from CNN, BBC, CBC, time, NPR, vice. It is too many to keep track of. We haven’t had a website until yesterday night (and it hasn’t yet been publicized even now as I type) so we haven’t been able to stress the importance of the network that coordinates this initiative.  Here we are! The task at hand is huge and moving very quickly. Here’s a thanks too all that have helped us get going!

Here’s a sampling of the press featuring our work and that of other colleagues doing similar work:

“Toronto ‘guerrilla’ archivists to help preserve US climate data” December 15th, 2016, BBC News.

“Copying countdown: Trump-wary scientists’ plan to preserve climate data” by Weston Williams, December 14th, 2016, Christian Science Monitor.

Researchers Are Preparing for Trump to Delete Government Science From the Web,” by Jason Koebler, December 13, 2016, Vice

“Scientists frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump,” by Brady Dennis, December 13, 2016, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

Toronto group wants to save science and climate change data from Trump with internet archiving” By May Warren, December 13, 2016 Metro News.