Saving the Environment, One Hackathon at a Time

Diehard coders team up to save federal climate data in face of new administration.

 

With many concerned that federal climate data is under attack from the new administration, a group of diehard coders is leaving nothing to chance.

A coordinated group of hackers, scientists, and students have embarked on a mission to save the data by orchestrating a series of hackathons to collect it from NASA’s earth science programs and the Department of Energy. A recent article published on Wired said the groups are not only archiving the critical environmental data, but are also building robust systems to monitor on-going changes to government websites—the goal being to keep track of anything being removed.

The teams are working methodically, the article said, unleashing web crawlers on easily-copied government pages that send their text to the Internet Archive digital library. For more data-intensive projects that include links, databases, and interactive graphics, a group called the “baggers” is called in. These folks write custom scripts that scrape the data sets from the federal websites in order to safeguard information. They are also building software that will automatically monitor changes and deletions to ensure nothing important gets lost or deleted, the article said.

The collaborators have plans beyond saving climate data. They are looking at other critical data sets potentially under attack, including historical, sociological, and cultural information—for example, a National Parks Service data portal that houses information on things like park visitation statistics, GIS boundaries, and species inventories, the article said.

This is one time when hackers are likely a welcome guest.

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