Project: Environmental Data Backup - Unesco Numerical World Heritage
This page and project is under-construction and is just a preliminary draft.
Following the last US elections, safety of US government climate data appeared at risk (Brady Dennis, Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump, Washington Post, 13th December 2016). The new head the Environmental Protection Agency nominated by the government, Scott Pruitt, called himself a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda". The new head of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, claimed that "we have been experiencing a cooling trend", and said "there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects".
Some US researchers have reported deletion of environmental data archivs (ex: V.Hermann report in the gardian 28th march 2017). An abreviated timeline of the Trump administration’s environmental actions and policy changes, as well as reactions to them, is maintained and periodically updated by the National Geographic (National Geographic- A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment). On the the 1st of July 2017, president Donald Trump announced that U.S. is pulling out of Paris Climate Agreement (a review is available on wikipedia).
In reaction, several initiatives to back up the many climate databases held by US government agencies arose in order to prevent their potential removing by the administration. Jan Galkowski, a statistician working at Akamai Technologies, began downloading climate data on the 11th of December 2016. John Baez, a mathematician who animates the Azymuth project, joined in to coordinate publicity for the project and it gave birth to the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project. Azimuth initiated a preliminary crowd founding and achieved some backup of some important publicly open climate data basis. Scott Maxwell (Google) set up a 10-terabyte account on Google Drive and started backing up data. Sakari Maaranen (Ubisecure) and Hetzner set up a server with that provides 10 Tb of storage, gigabit bandwidth and 30 Tb of a monthly traffic. A crowd funding campaign was initiated and 40 terabytes of US government databases on climate change and the environment were backed up on servers.
In a joint and parallel effort, the Data Refuge Project of the University of Pennsylvania organised the climate mirror project, an open project to mirror public climate datasets. Soon after some datasets were published, individuals started mirroring them. climate.daknob.net was one of the first to help and currently a lot of datasets are hosted here.
Pierre Collet, Anne Jeannin-Girardon, Pierre Baudot (Complex System-Digital Campus Unitwin Unesco and the University of Strasbourg) set up a server with 40Tb for the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project. The list of databasis and progress of the backup by the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project is available in this archiv. The safety of US government environmental databases safely back is ensured by computing hash codes for these datasets to help to prove the backups are authentic. More informations are available on Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project.
All this has been achieved thanks to personal and volunteers initiatives and funding, and it is now time for an international institution, Unesco to get involved in order to allow a long term backing up and to avoid some other future problem of this kind. These local US and recent events points out a general problem that should have been assessed long ago, upon the existence and status of archivs of data that appear crucial in sustainable development at the global scale and on the long term. Such data shall not be vulnerable to some ponctual or local political fluctuations. Since some other data, like health data (ex: epidemiological data), ecological data (ex: biodiversity survey) or cultural (indigenous oral and writing cultural data), in the field of Unesco, are faced to the same problem of potential deletion, the scope of the climate data archivs started by the US recent events shall be broaden and pursued on the long run and it is indeed in the original foundational guidelines of Unesco to enlarge the data archivs to biodiversity and cultural data.
- Idea an aims: A status of Unesco World Heritage for Climate, Heath and Cultural critical data
“What steam was to the 18th century, electricity to the 19th, and hydrocarbons to the 20th, data will be to the 21st century. That’s why I call data a new natural resource.” Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM. Indeed some data are peculiarly sensible and critical environmental, cultural, societal and scientific ressources that has to preserved from any deletion, falsification and stored safely on the long term. They are the record of the evolution of our ecosystems, of the evolution of Human societies in its environment and shall be kept available for the next generations and preserved against political or societal fluctuations. Sustainable development, predicting and monitoring future outcomes, prevention of societal and environmental risks (...), as a first necessary and crucial condition, rely on the storing and availability of such data: erasing the past makes us blind to the future.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programmes, international science programmes, the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press, regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity, translations of world literature, international cooperation agreements on secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites) and to preserve human rights, and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide. UNESCO's aim is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information". Other priorities of the organization include attaining quality Education For All and lifelong learning, addressing emerging social and ethical challenges, fostering cultural diversity, a culture of peace and building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication. (Wikipedia). On the initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Global Pulse a flagship innovation on big data was launched and should provide a partner of the project within UN. Its vision is a future in which big data is harnessed safely and responsibly as a public good. Its mission is to accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of big data innovation for sustainable development and humanitarian action.
The Security Council of UN, through its 24th march 2017 report, stated that "illegal attacks on sites and buildings devoted to religion, education, art, science or for historical charitable purposes or monuments may constitute , in certain circumstances and in accordance with international law a war crime and that the perpetrators of these attacks must be brought to justice" (Cf. article). Before the Security Council on Friday, 24 March 2017, Irina Bokova, Director-General of Unesco said: "The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, it has become a tactic of war to undermine society in the long term, in a strategy of cultural cleansing, which is why the defense of cultural heritage is much more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative inseparable from the defense of human lives ". She also recalled that weapons were not enough to defeat violent extremism. "Building peace also depends on culture, which requires education, prevention and the transmission of heritage." (Cf. article). Moreover, Unesco will organize on the 28th Sept 2017 a whole conference 'IPDCtalks' to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world.
The World Heritage Convention is an international treaty between Member States of the United Nations. It seeks to identify, protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Convention is rooted in the recognition that cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole. The loss, through deterioration or disappearance, of any of these most prized properties constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all the peoples of the world (Unesco Guide Chap1, p.14. The Operational Guidelines define Outstanding Universal Value as being cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity (Paragraph 49).
- Application to Unesco World Heritage
The guide for submitting a Unesco World patrimony proposal provides all the information for the submission. The project has to fulfil the forms and criteria imposed by Unesco to submit a proposal.
The main difficulty with respect to usual criteria of Unesco World Heritage is the "localization" requirements: a Numerical patrimony is in a weak sens (at least can be in some cases) "de-materialized" or "unlocalized" (in the sense of cloud computation and storage, that appears to be the sustainable future development of computational resources). We will have to stress the peculiarity of an e-patrimony, of a numerical patrimony and to propose an evolution in Unesco criteria. In a first step, we will organize and found 'local server', such that the usual Unesco requirements of "localization" are fulfilled, but we already advance since this early stage, that at maturity and on the long term Unesco will have to consider to weaken its localization criteria in the case of Numerical patrimony.
The environmental database complies with the criteria **mixed properties Heritage ** as those which satisfy part or the whole of the definitions of both cultural and natural heritage (Unesco Guide Chap1, p.24. First, it complies notably with the status of monument: "works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements features, or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, and combinations of which are of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of history, art or science." (Unesco Guide Chap1, p.20. Second, it complies with natural Heritage defined by the World Heritage Convention as: natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of Outstanding Universal Value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view. Or a geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Once accepted that environmental data constitute a monument of scientific knowledge and a unique record of our natural ecosystem (of Outstanding Universal Value), the environmental database, satisfy obviously not just one, but the criterion i, ii, iii, iv, vi, viii, and ix (Unesco Guide Chap1, p.34).
The boundaries of the environmental data backup are given in the three or four domains:
- Climate data backup: the backup realized by azimuth, the climate mirror, and other databases specialized in climate recordings to be defined.
- Biodiversity data backup: backup of biodiversity databases to be defined.
- Cultural data backup: backup of indigenous oral and written traditions databases to be defined.
- Health data backup: (?) backup of epidemiological, genetic and epigenetic databases to be defined.
Proposed deadline for the submission of the project (two years of preparation is advised): december 2018
- Draft of the project
E-team to hold the project:
Preparing a World Heritage nomination usually requires a team approach because of the complexity of the task, the range of key stakeholders, and the range of expertise required. (Chap 2.2 ). For the moment, the kernel team of voluntaries is:
- John Baez - Mathematician with interests in Physic, Biology and Ecology - Founder of Azymuth project.
- Émilie Barrucand - Anthropologist - Founder of Wayanga Association
- Pierre Baudot - Biologist with interest in mathematic
- Paul Bourgine - Economist - Founder of Complex System Institute Paris and of CS-DC Uniwin UNESCO
- Pierre Collet - Bio-Informatician - Co-ordinator of CS-DC Uniwin UNESCO
- David Tanzer Software developer - Co-ordinator of Azymuth project.
Unesco suggests some bigger team to be involved, and we ask for expert or institutional volunteers to contact us.
Institutional partnership: Unesco suggests that official institutions like universities, and research autorities to be involved in the project. Each member of the e-team may ask for his own research institution to be an official partner of the project or propose other pertinent one. The Complex System-Digital Campus Unitwin Unesco is by default one partner that already involves more than a hundred of scientific institutions around the world. (TBA: Global Pulse ? Strasbourg University?, Aix-Marseille University?, IRD? CNRS, Inserm? ... )
State party partnership: Unesco suggests that state party to be involved in the project (Chap 2.2 ), and we will ask for the support of French government who already took position on the topic (invitation from the President Macron to researchers, Official talk of Mr. Macron after US left Paris agreement "France will not give up the fight" "Make Our Planet Great Again" 01/06/2017), and notably the French Ministry of environment who following the request of the Minister Ségoléne Royal is already studying the support.
Scientific expert committee for archivs
The e-team designate one expert committee per domain of archives inside the e-team (listed above). Backuping databases: The usual peer-reviewing scientific process appears as the most efficient criteria for scientific illegibility of a backup. In consequence, the data archives are managed by a scientific committee that verifies the eligibility to the back-up on the only base of the existing peer-reviewed process without substituting to it. The committees only ensures that the data basis that are submitted for a backup are issued from a peer-reviewed scientific process, that its topic fit to the archives domain and that the storing capacity allows such a backup. Researchers that submit databases is responsible for the verification that its submission complies the open source requirement. In further development, the scientific legibility review of the committee could get involved in case of submission of non peer-reviewed databases from private companies such as energy or telecommunication companies.
Accessing to the databases: by default, all the archives are available and open freely to consultation and downloading. On special request, the database can be restricted to a specific set of users.
Opening to modelisation and organizing Challenges and Benchmarks: The databases will be made available to data challenges (example of challenge : Predicting next year local or global majors environmental events). The project will develop partnership with major open data contest, non-exhaustively Data Challenges (Gilles Wainrib and Stephane Mallat), CS-DC olympiades, and United Global Pulse Data for Climate Action.
Archives of the databases - Computing resources
In a first implementation of the project, the backup will be organized on localized and dedicated servers, and the possibility of distributed (cloud) storing will be proposed to Unesco on the long term. The CS-DC, via Pierre Collet, the Icube lab and Strasboug University and thanks to private donation to the Strasbourg University Fondation UNISTRA, already provided 40 Terabytes in RAID 5 with FTP access. We will propose to settle the first backups on this site using this infrastructure and process. Interface for the depository: a web interface for the depository will be developed, this may be achieved in partnership and using the efforts already provided by the climate mirror project (To be done).
The main costs of the project concerns data servers, their maintenance with a high rate transfer availability, and the development of an interface for the depository:
- Private donation campaign : the donation of individuals and private companies are welcome. They can be easily (few minutes) made via the Strasbourg University Fondation UNISTRA, by filling this DONATION FORM with specifyed "CS-DC Unesco UniTwin" as the recipient of the donation.
- Partners funding Unesco and other institutional partners will be asked to participate on the financial aspects (TBA). French government proposed also to support this project, and is currently studying the proposition (to ask again cf. the request of the Minister Ségoléne Royal).