Our Story

Data Refuge launched November 2016 in Philadelphia to draw attention to how climate denial endangers federal environmental data. With the help of thousands of civic partners and volunteers, the project has rapidly spread to over fifty cities and towns across the country. Now, Data Refuge is building a storybank to document how data lives in the world – and how it connects people, places, and non-human species.

In 2016 and 2017, thousands of volunteers took part in over fifty Data Rescue events hosted by libraries and other civic organizations across the country. These efforts by scientists and archivists attracted the attention of major media outlets and generated open government and open data watchdogging initiatives vital to the health of democracy. Across sectors--from universities to government to journalists to public advocates--volunteer participants recognized the wicked problem that the long-term preservation of public data poses. Archivists teach that data, like records, exist in a life cycle from creation to access through to preservation or destruction. In other words, data must be cultivated to be useful. Like any living organism today, data reside in a complex ecosystem shaped by human and nonhuman forces. Creating and maintaining robust public data requires ongoing collaboration and conversations. By telling the stories of government data, we protect these public assets from neglect, dilution, or deletion–whether intentional or inadvertent.

A data preservation movement is building, evidenced by thousands of volunteers, hundreds of media stories, and the collaborative work of the Environmental Data Government Initiative,  the Libraries Plus Network, the Digital Library Federation’s Interest Group on Government Records Transparency & Accountability and Endangered Data Week initiative and more. The 2018-2019 Data Storytelling initiative will bring this movement to local communities.  

Urgent Collecting: Data Stories

With this grant-making program, Data Refuge will grow the public storybank (stories.datarefuge.org) where we’ve already begun to deposit data stories. We’ve been gathering data stories at public engagement events in both formal and informal educational settings: from science festivals, to high school and college campuses, to research conferences. We invite you to join in this work to explore some of the many ways climate and environmental data live in the world--how they connect people, places, and non-human species. Together, we can create a rich storybank of data use cases as well as an imaginative array of data life stories: from data birth announcements to data love letters to data biographies to divorce papers to obituaries. It is our intention that these stories will be of interest to an array of public audiences, including the policy community.