Academic institutions store some of the world’s most important data collected over years of research. Nevertheless, centralized data storage models are becoming the focus of many universities that want to keep critical information safe and accessible.
Danny O’Brien, head of the Filecoin Foundation and the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW) – an independent organization that facilitates the management of the Filecoin network and fund development projects – told Cointelegraph that data stored by academic institutions is at risk. disappearing due to centralized storage models. To put this into perspective, the recent Filecoin Foundation survey found that 71% of Americans have lost information and records due to issues such as deleted hyperlinks or locked online accounts.
Decentralized storage helps secure and distribute data
To combat this, O’Brien explained that several educational institutions have begun using decentralized data storage models to preserve datasets. “A growing number of higher education institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, University of South Carolina and others, are all using Filecoin to store, preserve and archive their most important data on the blockchain,” he said.
For example, O’Brien pointed out that MIT is currently working on a three-year project with FFDW to explore how decentralized technology can support its Open learning programs. MIT’s Open Learning programs include “OpenCourseWare,” which is designed to provide free online materials from more than 2,500 MIT courses. This will allow anyone around the world to access MIT courses on the Internet.
O’Brien explained that with FFDW support, MIT Open Learning programs will use a decentralized repository to store cataloging while protecting their OpenCourseWare materials. He added that MIT will soon be holding public seminars on the challenges and opportunities of the decentralized web. “Education’s continued adoption of Web3’s decentralized data store offers, through cryptographic proof, a guarantee that data will remain available and unchanged over time, keeping their critical data as long as they want,” he said.
The University of Utah also uses decentralized storage protect and democratize access to large data files. Valerio Pascucci, a professor of computer science at the university, told Cointelegraph that the Center for Extreme Analysis and Visualization of Data Management recently adopted a solution from Seal Storage – decentralized cloud storage based on Filecoin – to complement its current centralized infrastructure.
Pascucci explained that the model provided by Seal Storage allows the National Science Data Fabric (NSDF) — a pilot program working with institutions to democratize data — to support its goal of creating new mechanisms for easy access to scientific information.
“Traditionally, minority serving institutions (MSIs), small colleges and other disadvantaged organizations cannot be part of scientific research because they do not have access to the data necessary for the work,” he said. Using the NSDF decentralized repository will change that.
According to Pascucci, the NSDF-Seal Storage partnership has already demonstrated the ability to distribute massive data collections to diverse communities without the need to deploy dedicated servers or other complex processing capabilities that may be impractical for many institutions.
“For example, NASA stores over 3 petabytes of open climate data on its largest supercomputer, the Pleiades. Yet anyone wanting to use the data would have to have a special Pleiades account and require the training needed to process the data,” he explained, “The NSDF adopted an ‘OpenVisus’ approach that reorganized NASA’s data so that its decentralized storage distribution allows for interactive processing and exploration virtually without any local resources.’
Pascucci added that this may be the first time a dataset of this size has been made available for interactive exploration directly from the cloud. In addition, he believes that the decentralized approach has increased security.
Decentralized storage is convenient, but problems remain
Although several universities have begun to use decentralized storage models, challenges remain that may hinder adoption.
For example, Pascucci pointed out that for the distribution of NASA’s Open Climate Data File, the OpenVisus NSDF data format had to be extended from traditional file systems to accommodate the storage model provided by Seal Storage. Jacques Swanepoel, chief technology officer at Seal Storage, told Cointelegraph that mapping and tagging data on the blockchain is a very complicated matter.
“Identifying which block on the blockchain contains specific information is key to taking full advantage of decentralized storage technology. To overcome these challenges, providers need to use creative software strategies to properly track where customer data is on the blockchain.”
Still, it remains notable that academic institutions are using decentralized storage models. “Academia, often considered a slow-moving field, has emerged as an early adopter of blockchain-based technologies, including decentralized storage, and continues to be a leader in the adoption and deployment of these tools,” O’Brien said.
This may very well be the case, as Pascucci shared that the University of Utah and NSDF are working to implement additional use cases with various universities.
“While the NASA use case is high profile both in terms of size and application in the important area of global climate change, we are already working on other use cases, including the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source experimental facility. This is where thousands of scientists go every year to collect data and share it with collaborators across the country,” he said.