Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Arctic Scientist Victoria Herrmann is complaining Donald Trump’s website reengineering has removed links to work she cited. My question – why didn’t she make her own copies?
I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations
These politically motivated data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average
As an Arctic researcher, I’m used to gaps in data. Just over 1% of US Arctic waters have been surveyed to modern standards. In truth, some of the maps we use today haven’t been updated since the second world war. Navigating uncharted waters can prove difficult, but it comes with the territory of working in such a remote part of the world.
Over the past two months though, I’ve been navigating a different type of uncharted territory: the deleting of what little data we have by the Trump administration.
At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.
I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.
These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs.
In a remote region where data is already scarce, we need publicly available government guidance and records now more than ever before. It is hard enough for modern Arctic researchers to perform experiments and collect data to fill the gaps left by historic scientific expeditions. While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice.
So please, President Trump, stop deleting my citations.
In my opinion this pathetic complaint is an attempt to deflect blame for Victoria’s own carelessness.
Poor data archiving by climate scientists is an ongoing scandal.
If a citation is an essential supporting document for her work, Victoria should have made her own copy of that citation.
There is no excuse these days for not having your own copy of important data. Modern data storage is cheap. A flash drive which can fit on your keychain, which holds two terabytes of data, can be purchased for less than a hundred dollars.
A single terabyte is an enormous amount of data. A terabyte is enough data storage to hold 200 separate electronic copies of the the entire electronic version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (2013).
A two terabyte flash drive could probably hold every paper Victoria has ever written, along with the entire tree of referenced citations, everything the referenced citations cited, and all the supporting data – and still have plenty of free space for the family photo album.
The US government does not have an obligation to permanently host copies of people’s work. If citations have been permanently lost, the slipshod archiving habits of climate scientists are to blame, not the housecleaning activities of US government agencies.