Academic institutions possess some of the world’s most important data generated from years of research. However, for many universities that wish to maintain the security and accessibility of critical information, centralized data storage models are becoming a problem.
According to Danny O’Brien, a senior researcher at the Filecoin Foundation and the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), data stored by academic institutions is at risk of disappearing due to centralized storage models. To illustrate this point, a recent survey conducted by the Filecoin Foundation found that 71% of Americans have lost information and records due to challenges such as deleted hyperlinks or locked online accounts.
Distributed storage helps protect and distribute data
To address this issue, O’Brien explains that a few educational institutions have started using decentralized data storage models to preserve datasets. He states, “An increasing number of higher education institutions, including MIT, Harvard University, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, University of South Carolina, and others, are using Filecoin to store, preserve, and archive their most important data on the blockchain.”
For example, O’Brien points out that MIT is currently collaborating with FFDW on a three-year project to explore how decentralized technology can support its Open Learning initiative. MIT’s Open Learning initiative includes “OpenCourseWare,” which aims to provide free online materials for over 2,500 MIT courses. This will allow anyone from around the world to access MIT’s courses on the internet.
With the support of FFDW, O’Brien explains that MIT’s Open Learning initiative will use decentralized storage to store the catalog while preserving its OpenCourseWare materials. He adds that MIT will soon host public workshops on the challenges and opportunities of decentralized networks. He states, “Education’s ongoing embrace of decentralized Web3 data storage, guaranteed by cryptographic proofs, ensures that critical data remains available and unchanged over time, as long as they want to keep it.”
Distributed storage is also being used to protect access to and democratize large datasets. Valerio Pascucci, a professor of computer science at the university, told Cointelegraph that the university’s Center for Extreme Data Management Analysis and Visualization recently adopted the solution provided by Seal Storage, a decentralized cloud storage platform powered by Filecoin, to complement its current centralized infrastructure.
Pascucci explains that the model offered by Seal Storage allows the National Science Data Structure (NSDF), a pilot program collaborating with institutions to achieve data democratization, to further achieve its goal of creating new mechanisms for easy access to scientific information.
He mentions, “Traditionally, minority-serving institutions (MSIs), small colleges, and other underserved organizations could not be part of scientific investigations because they couldn’t access the data required for the work.” The use of decentralized storage by NSDF is changing this situation.
According to Pascucci, the NSDF-Seal Storage partnership has demonstrated the possibility of distributing large-scale data collections to different communities without the need for specialized servers or other complex processing capabilities, which may be impractical for many institutions.
“For example, NASA stores an open climate dataset of over 3PB on its largest supercomputer, ‘Pleiades.’ However, anyone who wants to use the data needs a special account on Pleiades and requires training to handle the data,” he explains. “NSDF adopted the ‘OpenVisus’ approach, which reorganizes NASA’s data for distribution via decentralized storage, enabling interactive processing and exploration with almost no local resources.”
Pascucci adds that this may be the first time interactive exploration of such a scale of dataset is directly offered from the cloud. Additionally, he believes the decentralized approach enhances security.