Due to a technical defect in combination with human error

Geoscientists lose research data stored on Yoda

Yoda. Foto universiteit Utrecht
Illustration taken from UU's website

Last Friday, November 10, some scientists received a message saying that there might be something wrong with the research data they had stored on Yoda, the data management system developed by UU in 2015. This system allows researchers to store and share their data. UU prefers not to disclose how many scientists have been affected by the problem at this stage.

Yoda is available to the entire university, but last week’s problem occurred in the section assigned to Geosciences, which has been growing rapidly. That’s why it was necessary to expand storage capacity. It was during this process that the incident occurred. But geoscientists were not the only ones affected by it. After all, Yoda enables people to work together. Geoscientists were using the system precisely for that purpose, collaborating with others both inside and outside Utrecht University. 

The system is temporarily unavailable and UU is working on retrieving as much data as possible. However, on Friday, the university learned that some of the data had been completely lost. It's not yet known how much data this concerns.

Huge impact

Wilco Hazeleger, Dean of the Faculty of Geosciences, is shocked by the incident. "Something like this has a huge impact on scientists. It's possible that part of our research data has been lost. Some scientists can get it back by repeating lab experiments or simulations, but that is much more difficult to do with data collected through fieldwork." 

Hazeleger says that there’s little the faculty can do about technical problems, but he does feel considerably concerned with the consequences these technical problems have for the scientists. “The faculty will do its utmost to help people in that regard.”

An online meeting was held on Monday for those affected with the goal of making an inventory of the consequences, which may differ per scientist. Considerations included in-house backups, the likelihood of reacquiring data, and the damage to the research project. PhD candidates, for example, could take longer to graduate. "We will have to see how we can support them per researcher. In any case, we are aware of the seriousness of the situation,” states Hazeleger.