Academic institutions maintain some of the world’s most important data, generated through years of research. However, centralized data storage models are becoming a concern for many universities wishing to keep critical information safe and accessible.

Danny O’Brien, a senior fellow at the Filecoin Foundation and the Foundation for the Filecoin Decentralized Web (FFDW), an independent organization that promotes governance of the Filecoin network and funds development projects, told Cointelegraph that data stored by academic institutions is at risk of being compromised. risk. Gone due to the centralized storage model.To put this in perspective, the recent Filecoin Foundation poll 71% of Americans were found to have lost information and records due to challenges such as deleting hyperlinks or locking online accounts.

Decentralized storage helps secure and distribute data

To address this, O’Brien explained that some educational institutions have started using decentralized data storage models to preserve datasets. “A growing number of higher education institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, University of South Carolina, and others, are using Filecoin to store, preserve, and use their most important Data is archived on the blockchain,” he said.

For example, O’Brien noted that MIT is currently working on a three-year project with FFDW to explore how decentralized technologies can support its open learning program. MIT’s Open Learning initiatives include “OpenCourseWare,” which aims to provide free online material from more than 2,500 MIT courses. This will make MIT courses accessible on the Internet to anyone, anywhere in the world.

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O’Brien explained that through FFDW’s support, MIT’s Open Learning Project will use decentralized storage to catalog while preserving its open course materials. He added that MIT will soon host a public workshop on the challenges and opportunities of the decentralized web. He said: “The education community continues to adopt decentralized Web3 data storage, through cryptographic proof, ensuring that data remains available and unchanged over time, and they can keep critical data for as long as they want.”

The University of Utah also uses decentralized storage to secure and democratize access to large datasets. Valerio Pascucci, a professor of computer science at the university, told Cointelegraph that the institution’s Center for Extreme Data Management Analytics and Visualization recently adopted a solution from Seal Storage, a decentralized cloud storage platform powered by Filecoin, to complement its current centralized infrastructure .

Pascucci explained that the model provided by Seal Storage enables the National Science Data Structure (NSDF), a pilot program working with institutions to democratize data, to further its goal of creating new mechanisms to facilitate access to scientific information.

“Traditionally, minority-serving institutions (MSIs), small universities and other disadvantaged organizations have not been able to participate in scientific research efforts because they do not have access to the data they need to do their work,” he said. NSDF’s use of decentralized storage will change this.

Pascucci said the NSDF-Seal Storage partnership has already demonstrated the possibility of distributing large data collections to diverse communities without deploying special servers or other complex processing capabilities, which may be impractical for many institutions.

“For example, NASA stores an open climate dataset of over 3 petabytes in size on its largest supercomputer, the Pleiades. However, anyone who wants to use the data needs to have a special account on the Pleiades star cluster and required training to work with the data,” he explained, “NSDF took an ‘OpenVisus’ approach, reorganizing NASA’s data to allow interactive processing and explore.”

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. Additionally, he believes a decentralized approach enhances security.

Decentralized storage is beneficial, but challenges remain

While some universities have begun to take advantage of the decentralized storage model, challenges remain that could hinder adoption.

For example, Pascucci noted that in order to distribute NASA’s Open Climate dataset, NSDF’s OpenVisus data format had to be extended from traditional file systems to meet the storage model provided by Seal Storage. Seal Storage CTO Jacques Swanepoel told Cointelegraph that mapping and labeling data on the blockchain is a very complex endeavor.

“Identifying which block on the blockchain contains specific information is key to taking full advantage of the benefits of decentralized storage technology. To overcome these challenges, providers need to properly track where customer data is on the blockchain through creative software strategies. ”

It is worth noting, however, that academic institutions are using decentralized storage models. “Academia, often considered slow to move, has proven to be an early adopter of blockchain-based technologies, including decentralized storage, and remains a leader in the adoption and deployment of these tools,” O’Brien explain.

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That’s likely to be the case, and Pascucci said the University of Utah and NSDF are working with different universities to implement additional use cases.

“While NASA’s use case is compelling in terms of its scale and application to areas important to global climate change, we are already investigating other use cases, including the experimental facility at Cornell’s High Energy Synchrotron Source. Thousands of Scientists go here to collect data and share it with collaborators across the country,” he said.