Sustainability of complex digital resources is a critical issue to anyone committing their research data to digital format.
Heurist databases have high sustainability—of the order of decades—for the following reasons:
Heurist is built on MySQL, the most widely used Open Source relational database server today (used by many major applications including WordPress, Drupal, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube among others).
All Heurist databases have an identical MySQL structure, which is internally documented with consistent field-naming conventions and a concise and informative comment section on every field.
The structure, data and logic of a database built in Heurist is built into the database itself, not the software; the structure, data and logic in a Heurist database are fully self-documenting.
This contrasts with typical database applications where the database structure maps to the domain of the application and the application software is essential to using, if not interpreting, the content. Such applications are inherently unsustainable and probably have an unmaintained life of less than 5 years. The data in Heurist databases will be accessible and comprehensible/usable via standard SQL as long as MySQL databases are readable, which is likely to be a matter of decades. (See also Accessing Heurist Databases with MySQL.)
One-click creation of sustainable archive package
Heurist also provides a function in the My Profile menu which exports the database to an archive package. Database owners/managers can export the complete contents; other users will get all data to which they have access. The archive package consists of:
- A text file containing a MySQL database dump (the database rendered in SQL statements) which can be reloaded into any recent MySQL server (or other SQL server with a bit of work);
- A text file containing an XML rendering of the database content;
- Any uploaded files (text, images, videos, spreadsheets etc.) in their original format;
- A textual description of the Heurist database structure.