Vital research on public opinion is lost every day.
Hard drives holding valuable polling data are gathering dust in storage rooms. Flash drives are sitting forgotten in desk drawers. Websites are going dark when the researchers responsible for maintaining them move onto other projects. Somewhere, there is a computer that holds essential data that is about to be infected with a virus, causing the files to be lost forever.
And with each unrecoverable study, researchers of the future lose insights. How can these losses be prevented?
Only through archiving. Data sharing ensures that data are available now to interested researchers, but it does not guarantee that datasets will be protected from the effects of time. Archiving is data sharing for the future.
Archives plan for file format migration so that files remain accessible long after the demise of the original software that created them. Archives ensure that data are thoroughly documented, so that variables can be accurately interpreted by those unable to contact the original researcher. Archives have robust security, back-up protocols, protections against data degradation, and continuity planning. And archives build discoverability tools, because data that is preserved but unfindable will never be used.