While depressed oil prices in the late 1990s cooled data preservation efforts, officials are trying to kick-start a cross discipline approach that would incorporate all earth science disciplines that benefit from the data.
The National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academies of Science, has started a study on the preservation of geoscience data and collection, said Edith Allison, program manager with the Department of Energy's office of natural gas and petroleum technology, and chairperson of the AAPG Committee for Preservation of Cores and Samples.
DOE requested the study, which will be conducted by the Board of Earth Sciences and Resources.
The goal is to develop a comprehensive strategy for managing geoscience data in the United States. The study will examine:
- Developing a strategy for determining what geoscience data to preserve.
- Options for the long-term archive of geoscience data.
- Three-to-five accession and repository case studies as examples of successes and failures.
- Distinguish the roles of the public and private sectors in geoscience data preservation.
"We hope this study will help bring everybody together that has a vested interest in this issue to start thinking about a joint solution," Allison said.
There is no time to waste. In California alone huge amounts of core samples are in jeopardy, according to Russ Robinson, curator of the California Well Sample Repository.
"There are major core collections in private hands today with an uncertain future," Robinson said. "Torch Nuevo bought out Unocal's California operations, including about 60,000 boxes of core and Aera Energy inherited Shell's 90,000 boxes of core. These independent companies are not in a position to indefinitely incur the expense of archiving these collections.
"Also, the USGS has told us its California collection will be dumped unless it can be transferred to another facility."
Allison said, "It's all about money. We have to make people understand that preserving this important historical data is vital to future scientific studies and worth the time, effort and money to save it."