The data deluge

Next week I’m facilitating the ‘Research Data Matters‘ workshop for The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, National Library of New Zealand and the Royal Society of New Zealand. This is a one-day event to discuss issues surrounding the long-term management of publicly-funded research data.

I’ve been working on research data policy issues with MoRST for about seven years now and its exciting to see how far we’ve come in that time. One of my oft collaborators at MoRST last week asked me whether I’d seen any infographics that represented the ‘data deluge’, in particular the figures cited in the article by that name from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK.

I’ve seen some excellent ones on the size of the Internet, and file storage volumes, but nothing of that nature, so I decided to make one. This uses physical objects to show the relative scale of moving from a megabyte up to an exabyte. Click the image for a larger version:

data deluge infographic

Apparently the current size of the Internet is estimated at 5 trillion terabytes, or 5 exabytes. I note the JISC article is from late 2004, so estimates on the total annual production of information may well have gone up by then.

For those particularly interested the actual sizes, they’re not precisely scaled by 1,000 each time, but are fairly close. Here are the numbers:

Length of a tiny ant 1.4 millimetres
Height of a short person 1.4 metres
Length of the Auckland Harbor Bridge 1,020 metres
Length of New Zealand 1,600 kilometres
Diameter of the Sun 1,390,000 km

This infographic is licensed by Julian Carver under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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