Home > About Data Refuge Stories > Our Story

Our Story

Data Refuge is a public, collaborative project founded November 2016 in Philadelphia, designed to address the following concerns about federal climate and environmental data:

  • What are the best ways to safeguard data?
  • How do federal agencies play crucial roles in data collection, management, and distribution?
  • How do government priorities impact data’s accessibility?
  • Which projects and research fields depend on federal data?
  • Which data sets are of value to research and local communities, and why?

Data Refuge has been committed to identifying, assessing, prioritizing, securing, and distributing reliable copies of federal climate and environmental data so that it remains available to researchers. Data collected as part of the Data Refuge initiative are be stored in multiple, trusted locations to help ensure continued accessibility.

Now, Data Refuge is committed to highlighting creative and effective modes of storytelling that facilitate the flow of scientific facts and data to multiple publics. In this next phase of Data Refuge, we are organizing a national data storytelling initiative. Our shared goal is to extend the work of thousands of volunteers who participated last year in over forty local Data Rescue events, and to shine light on the ways that federal environmental data impact us everyday by developing a collection of Data Stories

Data Stories are a collection of tools that will document the ecology of federal data through a series of questions:

  • How are data produced?
  • How are data visualized?
  • Where do data live?
  • How are data used in an array of locations across the country?
  • What kinds of data would be useful to different communities?

Data Stories employ a variety of narrative forms and media formats to explore the surprising variety of uses that local communities make of public, federal climate and environmental data, from climate adaptation, to emergency management, to individuals’ “lifehacks:” resilient responses to our changing planet. 

By documenting the lives and uses of US federal climate and environmental data across political boundaries, we make the case for collective action to safeguard data and ensure its continued access. Ultimately, Data Stories illuminate the ways in which open-access to federal data is a matter of equity, public health, and economic well-being. 

Thanks to generous support from the National Geographic Foundation, private donors, and a collaboration with the Libraries+ Network, Preserving Electronic Governance Initiative (PEGI), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), this next chapter will include data storytelling events around the country and a culminating event at National Geographic’s headquarters in Spring 2019.