Information Governance is by its very nature interdisciplinary. Of course, it needs leaders, but great information governance leaders are those that enable a multi-disciplinary team approach to thrive. This is best done by allowing the distinct approaches to information brought by members of the team to exist in both cooperation and creative dissent. The organisational context and information culture determines exactly which skills are brought into the collective mix of information governance, but typically it includes compliance, risk, privacy, risk, security, recordkeeping, data management and analytics (and more in the American context, e-discovery). Each of these focus areas brings specific approaches to their patch of information governance – the trick is to get each to play to their strengths without drowning out or diminishing the important roles of others. Playing nicely across information disciplines is not a given and fostering that capability is the skill of the information governance leader.
So what exactly does the recordkeeping discipline bring to the mix? The overwhelming focus is to ensure that authoritative traces of activity exist in order to document, defend and enable efficient business. Throw aside any preconceptions you may have of this discipline: in particular, any misapprehensions that the focus is on paper, storage or cleaning up accumulated digital or paper remnants. The reality is that today’s recordkeeping professional is focussed on enterprise-wide framework issues including mechanisms to manage authoritative information effectively with all existing and planned systems. The importance of inter-disciplinary working is drilled into the professional approaches, and today’s recordkeeping professional should be well versed in identifying and working with the specific professional concerns of cognate disciplines.
An emerging framework for understanding organisational recordkeeping is that of recordkeeping informatics, which stresses the need for agility, interdisciplinary focus and the need to adapt practices and requirements in ever-changing technological environments. Focussing approaches on two solid foundation blocks – continuum thinking and metadata, recordkeeping informatics uses three facets of analysis – organisational information culture, business analysis, and access.
Continuum thinking is, in part, a sensibility and an orientation to information managed for specific evidential purposes. It brings an understanding that in order to keep, often fleeting, digital communications, a robust understanding of complex and often competing demands must be met. If the information is to provide the authoritative resource organisations require, it must be proactively designed as fit for purpose – whether it needs to last a nanosecond or a millennium. But information, particularly digital information, can be paradoxically fragile. If the preconditions are not consciously architected to enable contextual management of information over time, then the information will lose its authoritative nature very quickly, possibly only surviving as useful resources for the memory-span of an individual connected with its creation or management. Continuum thinking stresses connections with the future but also with the past, positioned in situated analysis of the organisation within its ever-changing social environment, where multiple perspectives need to be identified and consciously incorporated into organisational approaches.
No information discipline can operate in today’s digital world without a solid appreciation and understanding of the role of metadata in the design and continuing implementation of management strategies. For recordkeeping, the metadata is not a post hoc add on, but a fundamental component of any digital recordkeeping approach. It is part of the record, which, while it may be stored separately is none-the-less an inherent component of the record, as important as, and arguably more important than, the content and its physical manifestation. Recordkeeping professionals deal in complexity and manage in context. This involves continuously ensuring relationships are defined and managed – including components needing to be bundled together, content objects managed in cascades of drafts, versions and multiple states of formality, identified roles, and responsibilities for actions that are hugely dynamic and ever-changing reflecting organisational realities. These are just a few of the organisational relationships managed through ever-accumulating recordkeeping metadata. This metadata is used to make assertions about the reliability and trustworthiness of the state of the information resource managed as records.
A recordkeeping professional grounds their approaches in organisational context. The importance of knowing the regulatory and compliance environment is key as it determines the requirements for records to support organisational responsibilities. The capacity to implement recordkeeping in systematic ways is driven by the information culture that derives from the organisational culture. Some organisations are risk-takers, some are more than mindful of regulatory compliance, and sometimes multiple information cultures will exist within one organisation. Diagnosing the state of the information culture will determine where a successful recordkeeping intervention is likely – through technological mechanisms, through behavior, through policy or other tactics.
Understanding the meaning of information over time is important. To do that in ways that support not only the current business but future requirements including those imposed by external stakeholders and users requires the construction of records in ways that reflect the business that was going on when the authoritative information was created and used. This locks recordkeeping informatics approaches into design strategies reflecting the realities of current business processes. Of course, making records creation and capture automatic, invisible, and able to operate as a continuing organisational resource to improve business practice is a major driver here. Locking the contextual understanding of the information created in, and supporting, the business process is a core requirement. And here too, the discipline of knowing how long information should be retained for comes into the mix. Defensible disposal is now an issue facing all organisations. The ‘keep everything, storage is cheap’ and ‘we’ll derive huge, but as yet unknown, value from accumulating our data’ approaches are beginning to lose viability as costs spiral, risks of exposure and unintended disclosures grow higher with uncontrolled and unknown data swamps, and information stored but contextless and unmanaged threatens to overwhelm. Coming to a more mature approach to managed information includes embracing defensible disposal and that is a long demonstrated recordkeeping skill.
Finally, no organisation can manage information resources without an access and permissions framework. Notions that this is purely a responsibility of single sign-ins or something determined by cybersecurity experts ignore the complex multi-system, multi-participant nature of business processes. The notion that ‘information just wants to be free’ is not an organisational reality. Protecting that which needs to be secured is not only a technological requirement from the cybersecurity community of the information governance matrix. Who has permission to do what, and for how long, who they are, responsibilities and delegations – all this is part and parcel of documenting and enabling business which is immediately reflected in the information created to document that business.
Look again, with fresh eyes at the role of recordkeeping within information governance. Recordkeeping is a fundamental approach to architecting information management approaches within a governed information framework. It is not stand alone, nor are today’s recordkeeping approaches for information governance post hoc, retro-fitted or simply defensive. Rather it is a dynamic, participatory, tailored approach to effective management of authoritative information for today’s business environment, tailored to re-use, business efficiency and grounded in robust interdisciplinary collaboration.
About this article
This article was written by Barbara Reed, Director, Recordkeeping Innovation. The article was first published on the Information Governance ANZ blog http://www.infogovanz.com/recordkeeping-in-information-governance in September 2018.
We are inundated by information and data every day and creating more information than ever before in all aspects of our lives. However, how much of the information created today is actually being preserved for future use? How, as information professionals can we ensure digital preservation of the information and records that are the life blood and the building blocks of our organisations and businesses?
As Information and Records Managers we understand:
- That many records need to be retained long term.
- That education and communication with users, stakeholders and other information professionals from different disciplinary backgrounds is invaluable to establishing an information culture.
- The need to engage with IT and other information areas to make use of existing expertise and knowledge within an organisation.
- The importance of metadata to ensure access to authentic records and information and that these can be understood in the future.
- The risks to the organisation if valuable information is lost due to technological obsolescence and media degradation.
- The need for standard file formats,
- The need for standards to ensure that the data and information identified for preservation can be transferred to trusted digital repositories.
- The importance of planning and developing strategies supported by sound policy.
Digital preservation is a complex area and it is often underestimated or even overlooked. It is often challenging convincing senior management that preservation of digital assets is an important initiative. So how do we go about or even start thinking about the digital records that we need to preserve in perpetuity for our organisations? How do we convince IT that the backup systems they have in place are not sustainable in ensuring that important records are accessible into the future; that digitisation of physical records is not preservation, much more is needed to ensure that digitised items can be accessed in the years to come. What are the critical things we should be considering and planning for so we can avoid the loss of valuable information? What tools are available to us to assist? Where do we go for advice?
We can look to the research data management and cultural heritage world for a wealth of guidance, advice and tools on digital preservation that can be applied to corporate records and information. The Digital Preservation Coalition provides an online handbook that provides good practice in creating, managing and preserving digital materials and provides a range of practical tools to assist.
Another useful tool is the Community Owned Digital Preservation Tool Registry (COPTR). This site provides a registry of tools to assist practitioners find the right tool for the digital preservation job. This site also provides an interactive grid to assist with navigating the large number of tools in the registry.
Figure 1: Interactive grid – COPTR
To protect valuable information assets organisations must be planning for digital preservation and engaging with all areas of the business receiving and producing records and information.
Recordkeeping Innovation is company with extensive experience in the information management field. Our team of consultants are experts and have a wealth of experience in development and implementation of information management frameworks, policy and strategy development, digital preservation policy, strategies and planning and development of metadata schemas. The team at Recordkeeping Innovation can assist in you in planning for digital preservation. Learn more at http://www.records.com.au/
About the Author
Adelle Ford has worked in the information and records management sector since 1979, having been employed in various capacities by both public and private sector organisations. Adelle has developed records management policies, strategic plans and operational procedures for large scale organisations operating in legislatively complex business environments. Adelle has experience in and a sound knowledge of a range of information management systems and has developed information governance frameworks and information inventories. Adelle has taught records management courses through Sydney Institute (TAFE) and continues to conduct system and records management training for clients. Adelle is currently completing a Graduate Certificate in Data Management
The health system is undergoing a digital transformation as more health services and practitioners adopt electronic health records. I recently attended a seminar on digital health information held by the International Association of Privacy Professionals, iapp- ANZ, and sponsored by Microsoft, that explored the many benefits, as well as the potential impediments for e-health records.
The panel of experts all acknowledge the benefits of e-health systems, especially for big data analysis supporting better disease recognition, familial tracing and diagnosis and the linking of screening program and treatment data. We are only at the beginning of health system improvements based on digital health records. Researchers are gaining new insights as existing data is enriched, digital images are captured and made accessible for improved or remote diagnosis. Data analytics and new tools can identify disease and treatment patterns in large datasets.
By Intel Free Press http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/6948764580/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Individuals receive better health care from fully informed practitioners. Practitioners need to know that frail or elderly patients are being prescribed a wide variety of medicines that may interact to cause adverse reactions. Hospitals need timely access to diagnostic test results and avoid the costs incurred when tests have to be duplicated because data cannot be accessed. Complete medical history can be accessed when a patient moves hospitals or to a new provider or is frail or incapacitated. Digital access, flexibility and sharing of data leads to better health outcomes and reduced health system costs. Australian governments are currently making significant investments developing e-health platforms to achieve these benefits.
Trust and privacy protection
How will government win trust so that patients accept e-health records? Can patients ensure that their privacy is protected? Can patients control what information is shared, who can access it, and they can withdraw their consent?
Individuals will only agree to upload and maintain their e-health records when they trust the system, when they trust the government to act as the custodian of their private information. A new regime of documented and specific consent is needed that empowers patients to control their e-health record.
Managing consent: what, how and when
1. Consent for a specific purpose
Legislation requires that e-health data can only be used for the purpose that it was collected, in most cases for individual treatment, unless the patient provides consent that information can be used for a secondary purpose. So we have the situation that data has been collected e.g. for a medical research purpose, and now we could re-use this data for analysis, treatment reviews and modelling using new techniques, but this re-use requires patients consent for a secondary purpose. However, gaining patient consent retrospectively is impractical, and requesting consent for potential and future uses is problematic when these are not yet known. Consent will need to become a more nuanced and updateable record which enables a user to withdraw consent at some future time.
2. Consent must not be a pre-condition for service delivery
Health services will need to ensure that default consent is not required or required as a condition to receiving a service. So when a patient gives permission to share test results, that doesn’t give consent for the data to be shared with others, to be sold or re-used for commercial purposes.
3. Keeping records of consent
Health practitioners and consumers need better awareness about privacy protection and the management of user’s consent. A draft consultation paper from the UK’s Information Commissioner provides guidelines on how to manage patient consent, including advice on the recordkeeping requirements for user consents. The guidance is based on principles and supporting guidelines:
- Consent should offer genuine choice and control,
- Requires a positive opt-in, not opt out
- Explicit consent requires clear and specific statement of consent
- Make it easy to withdraw consent, and tell people how
- Keep evidence of consent,
- Avoid making consent a precondition of a service.
- Consent should be clear, concise and easy to understand
- Consent should be separate from other terms and conditions.
- Health services should provide instructions if the patient wants to withdraw their consent.
Health service providers should keep records of consent, including when and how consent was given, and updated. Health services will need to retain records to show evidence of consent. Although there is an overhead to keep sound records, the long term benefits will be a trusted e-health system.
Without trust, without explicit consent and the confidence that consent is controlled by patients, users are less likely to accept and use e-health systems.
About the Author
Kerry Gordon is a Director and Consultant with Recordkeeping Innovation. She works on digital recordkeeping and archives for clients in Australia and SEAsia. Kerry delivers regular training programs in records management and managing digital records. Kerry has a Masters Degree in Information Management from Monash University, Melbourne and has experience in developing large scale strategic studies for digital transition, classification and retention, managing administrative and organisational change, project management and communications supporting information governance.
We all recognise that things move quickly, the technology we have today will be surpassed swiftly by innovative solutions. Diversity of digital channels for social interaction and communication are expanding rapidly and being adopted in business environments.
Many of these channels are relatively young compared to mobile phones, email and other portable devices…
Many of these channels are relatively young compared to mobile phones, email and other portable devices…
It is fascinating to look at preparations for change in administration from the Obama Presidency to the next. It illustrates the level of adoption of social channels as a means to engage people. President Obama used a variety of channels extensively. Over his 8 year period in office the White House used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube. Medium, Tumblr and Flickr. You might find these articles describing the social media aspects of the Presidential Transition and plans to preserve and pass on the digital legacy of this group an interesting read.
Another recent article outlines comments from Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes relating to economic changes stemming from technological advances. He cites an example relating to 2.5 million people driving cars as a significant part of their job, saying “Those jobs are all going away whether it takes 10 years, 15 years or 20 years, it doesn’t matter”. We have also seen “disruption” through establishment of innovative online services (e.g. AirBnB, Uber).
While comments about workforce and industrial changes may sound gloomy, it also provides opportunity for innovation, highlighting the need to think differently about our work – to be “change ready”.
How can we think differently about technology in our professional world?
Electronic document and records management systems (EDRMS) have been implemented over the last 20+ years as “a” means to manage information. Many of these products are born from systems that managed paper records. They may be integrated with other business systems if the funding and executive sponsorship exist.
Changes we are seeing in the social media realm extend into the broader business environment, with documents generated by multiple business systems and a workforce that is much more mobile.
Some options to manage the information generated might include:
- Using an EDRMS as a single tool to manage documents and records
- Capturing records created by other business systems in an EDRMS, either as an export or a manual process
- Integrating with business systems to capture and manage records via an EDRMS for recordkeeping purposes
- Managing records within source business systems
Not an exhaustive list, but some of the approaches we see across the range of organisations we work with.
Sticking with EDRMS as a single tool is becoming less and less practical:
- Business models are less stable – frequent organisational change, services may be provided through third parties, outsourced or privatised
- Organisations implement an array of systems to manage core business functions
- Business systems may have some of the features expected from a recordkeeping perspective, but they seldom have all the functionality required to meet recordkeeping standards.
- Exporting information from or integrating with business systems is often complex, expensive, takes time to plan and implement.
In a fast paced business environment there is little tolerance for projects take a long time to implement – agility is needed. To quote one of my favourite songs by Queen – I want it all and I want it now.
So where are the opportunities?
There is definitely potential to manage our information by design, looking at the broad information architecture within organisations to:
- Focus on work processes and the information created
- Identify information assets, where they are and how they are managed (beyond EDRMS)
- Take a risk and value based approach, applying our scarce resources to mitigate and control risks
- Influence early through established frameworks:
- Business planning, risk assessment and management
- Procurement processes, contract and project management
- Ensuring system requirements address recordkeeping requirements, assessing their level of compliance as part of system acquisition or upgrade
- Information security, privacy and access arrangements
- Information governance and other communities of practice
Taking a “by design” approach beyond EDRMS might include:
- Developing simple tools to assist non-specialist staff to navigate requirements as part of their business and system planning activities
- Designing self-assessments for business systems to identify risks and mitigation strategies
- Information management plans fit for purpose – for simple or complex systems, guidance on migration or decommissioning
Traditional approaches are changing, as professionals we can add value to management of information across operations, providing guidance as part of business processes and systems – by design.
About the author
Toni Anderson has worked in the information and records management field for a substantial period in a range of Local, State, Commonwealth government organisations and the private sector, nationally and internationally, building a strong professional profile through participation in industry forums and associations. Toni has extensive experience in strategic planning, development of records and information management frameworks, policy and procedures, business classification schemes, retention authorities, the specification of requirements, selection of enterprise content and records management systems to meet business needs, implementation of a broad range of software products and associated change management. Toni has been instrumental in transitioning from project to business as usual operations, and leading teams providing high quality information services.
The Records in Contexts conceptual model by the ICA’s Expert Group on Archival Description were issued for comment in September 2016. The approach creates a conceptual model that unifies previous archival descriptive standards issued by the International Council on Archives (ISAD-G; ISAAR-CPF, ISDF and one I think less than useful, ISDIAH).
This is a really interesting development, much to be encouraged. But getting the conceptual model clear is important. I’ve published my comments here.
This might be a bit esoteric, but hopefully interesting enough for those deep down in the fascinating world of recordkeeping metadata.
Comments on EGAD – Expert Group on Archival Description, Records in Context – Conceptual Model http://www.ica.org/en/call-comments-release-records-contexts-egad
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the evolving RIC (Records in Contexts). I commend the work of the EGAD group in this complex and demanding work. Exposure to the archival community for comment is appreciated. The introduction of a multi-entity relational model which enables recursive relationships within entities, and extensive relationships between entities is totally supported.
However, as indicated in more detailed comments below, the definition of the entities is problematic, as is the management of relationships. Relationships and their management become critical in this type of model. Modelling relationships has always been difficult and problematic. Other disciplines do not seem to have the same requirements for persistence and management of relationships over time. Indeed it can be said to be one of the key features of the Australian Series System, an intellectual basis from which my practice evolved. As a community I would assert that we haven’t cracked the expression of relationships yet, and neither has the RIC, with problems in the models proposed here.
It is with great pleasure that I read this document, and applaud its aspirational stance. The networked, flexible model for archival description at the basis of RiC-CM will serve the archives profession well into the digital future. The alignment with recordkeeping metadata approaches, which can be seen in the multi-entity and relationship definition, will serve the broader recordkeeping community well. Compatible models for records regardless of the domain they are managed in (current workplaces, archives or in the ‘wild’) will enable much greater interoperability, inheritance opportunities and enhancement rather than replacement of metadata sourced from various processes over time.
Qualification for comments
I have had some involvement in definition of metadata for archives/records through work on the original SPIRT metadata project at Monash University, the development of the ISO Metadata for Records standard suite (ISO 23081) and the AS 5478 Australian Metadata Reference Set. I chaired the Australian Society of Archivists Archival Descriptive Committee for a time, and contributed to the codification of the Australian Series System. I have also had development and implementation experience with jurisdictional metadata standards such as those published by National Archives of Australia, Archives NZ, HK SARs Government Records Service.
Comments on Entities
Archives and records work deal fundamentally with three types of entities in relationship. This has been the bedrock of Australian archival practice for over 50 years. These entities are Records, Agents and Functions. These are the entities that we are professionally responsible for. Other entities introduced into the RIC may well be useful for description (eg Concept/Thing) in the world of semantic web construction. But they are generic and not our core business. While supportive of their inclusion and their potential to link to other professional and cultural domains, the RiC-CM should prioritise those entities which are our core business.
Conceptual diagram from 1990s SPIRT metadata project; http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/research/groups/rcrg/projects/spirt/deliverables/conrelmod.html
I commend the introduction of limited set aggregations. The inclusion of multiple recursive relationships for Records Set/Agents in particular opens up the data model to be responsive to multiple archival descriptive traditions (although the examples used in the property descriptions could more actively embrace this by using not only ISAD G representations, but also explicitly acknowledging that these can be inherited/used to support other descriptive traditions). The recursive nature also increases the relational power of the model, something endorsed totally.
In the articulation of the entities provided, there seems to be a confusion between conceptually defining our core professional entities (which doesn’t exclude inheriting the expression from others), and the practical demands of constructing system entities or more general descriptive entities. I cannot find the conceptual rationale or logic of separating out some of the entities, rather than making them properties. At minimum an articulation of the logic is required. But I would argue:
- Occupation, Position are attributes of Agents.
- Documentary Form is an attribute of Record Set/Record
- Date and its expression is an attribute of every entity, at every layer of aggregation, and also an attribute of relationships which need to be timebound. An alternative construct is to move further towards making relationships central. If every action is expressed as a dated relationship (for example existence, extent, actions on a record) then all critical statements are made as relationship statements which are dated. This might mean that date is no longer needed as an entity, but becomes critical in expression of relationship – some of this can actually be seen in the graph diagram included in Appendix 1.
- Relationship must be an entity if we are to coherently express and manage relationships over time (see below).
- Place and Concept/Thing is a subject based attribute that can be added to anything and while it links us to the Linked Open Data community and is desirable, it is a set of add ons, nice to have, not critical to our archival practice. In that spirit of great, but not exclusively recordkeeping relationships, I would think that Events could also be added, but recognising a potential overlap with what is currently inadequately expressed as ‘history’ needs distinguishing from recordkeeping events (see further below).
- Place is confusing – it seems to be both location (has holding location etc), as well as physical positioning, such as geographical coordinates. I suspect these two quite different notions of Place is made to enable inclusion of ISDIAH, which itself was always out of step with the ICA descriptive entities. Archival repositories are a type of agent, as has been argued before.
The relationship based approach is central to our Australian descriptive practice and I support it wholeheartedly. However, it has also been notoriously difficult to achieve an adequate expression of relationships. In traditional Australian practice relationships have been a component of each entity’s description – so a record description would include its relational link to its creating agency, controlling agency, related records etc. Using these relationship traces makes the tracing of relationship networks flexible, time bound and complex.
However we recognise that this de-emphasises the nature of relationship. In other work, we have expressed relationship as an entity itself, allowing relationships to have identifiers, dates and to contain persistent links to the related entities. This has been OK but subject to problems even at a conceptual level in expressing reciprocal relationships and ensuring persistence of relationships. It is the best we have done to date.
In RIC, the adoption of semantic data models, and graph technology construction is highly commendable and I endorse the notion that these are likely to be the technologies of the future. Relationships are central to these technologies and the approach is completely consistent with our Australian archival practice. However it is unclear to me how the technology or the data models document these relationships.
While I do not pretend to understand graph databases, the graph models such as the one attached here indicate that relationships can be managed as entities effectively in graph databases. Surely modelling relationships in this way is more sustainable for archival description. The relationship notion is central, not peripheral.
[diagram from slide 10 of Max de Marzi Graph Databases Use Cases http://www.slideshare.net/maxdemarzi/graph-database-use-cases]
Managing the relationships which are critical as only statements in RDF triples only provides persistence to the nodes that are linked, rather than attributing persistence to the relationships themselves. While the EGAD committee acknowledge that the expression of relationships is still a work in progress, I would suggest that confirming the data model around relationships is essential.
The extensive list of relationships provided is acknowledged as not comprehensive and in need of further work. Given that it is a central component of the RIC model, further development must take place before the model can be endorsed.
In Australian practice we have traditionally identified types of relationship. These are Provenance, Succession, Containment and Associative relationships. The recordkeeping metadata standard introduced a further relationship type of Events or Actions which allowed description of things done to or on records as a further relationship type (see below). Using this type of characterisation of relationships might assist in creating more clarity about what types of relationships are appropriate to each entity. Chris Hurley has proposed a further categorisation of relationships. Developing this thinking would be beneficial in RiC-CM.
Noting that the introduction to the draft RIC stated ‘RiC-CM also does not yet offer a model of the role of the archivist and the activities he or she performs in the formulation and ongoing maintenance of description’ this points to a conceptual gap in the articulation at present. The property ‘Authenticity and Integrity’ in Records Set/Record (RIC P5 and P22) inadequately encompass the requirements to enable assertions of authenticity and integrity. I would argue that the material not well encompassed in ‘History’ documents the events and actions that are taken on a record and this is the information needed to assert authenticity and integrity over time. For digital records integrity is also the digital checksum or hash of the specific record element. I find the conceptual thinking to be unclear about this.
Within our Australian practice we have identified ‘recordkeeping events’ to document these actions. This may, or may not, be the answer, it does propose a different way of thinking about these actions. Further, such recordkeeping events are expressed as relationships – themselves an expression of something done, by someone, on something at a particular date. Some of the relationships identified in the listing are of this nature (eg was written by, was collected by). This could be extended and, depending on the nature of relationships as they evolve, might prove a mechanism to clarify notions of authenticity and actions.
Particularly when encouraging inheritance of metadata from current recordkeeping systems, attention to recordkeeping events for digital records particularly, is essential.
While not proposed as necessarily authoritative, the work done in AS 5478 Australian Metadata Reference Set for event relationships may be useful. This is attached to this comment for reference.
Granularity: One of the things we know about translating archival descriptive systems to digital records is that increased layers of granularity of description are required. Thus what may be expressed as a ‘Record’ in the paper world, may in fact be composed of many digital components. Thinking of a file, traditionally considered an item in archival descriptive systems ( a ‘Record’ in RiC-CM) because it is a complete, and ‘issuable’ thing, can disaggregate into many many specific images of individual pages, each one of which can be considered an ‘issuable’ thing. Is it the intention to manage images of an individual page as a ‘Records component’? I suspect that this will not work particularly well, and certainly considerations of sequence must be addressed (noting that this too is explicitly noted as requiring further development p39). Alternative renditions or formats (microfilm, pdf, jpeg etc) may also exist for each page. Perhaps a better expression is to allow ‘Record’ too to become recursive.
Parallel provenance or multiple simultaneous provenance: Increasingly archival practice is allowing alternative models of description to co-exist with ‘official’ interpretations. This allows alternative versions of context to be constructed, and to have equal validity with ‘official’ expressions. How will RiC-CM enable these alternative expressions?
User contributions: Linked to the need to enable multiple provenance expressions but not the same, is the increasing prevalence of user contribution to archival descriptive systems. This might be through alternative expressions in the metadata of an archival descriptive system, or alternatively, the contribution of other items to an archival system. These need to be managed and attributed appropriately to the contributor. At present such notions do not appear to be enabled in RiC-CM and they are already a requirement of practice.
Digital records: presumably as a requirement to encompass the existing ICA descriptive standards, the examples and properties fields seem to reflect a paper based paradigm. Better examples and further thinking on characteristics of digital records would enhance the RiC-CM model.
I welcome the advent of RiC-CM and encourage the EGAD Group to continue development of this exciting initiative.
Director, Recordkeeping Innovation Pty Ltd
The EU funded Pericles project held its final project conference in London on 30 November to 1 December. PERICLES (Promoting and Enhancing Reuse of Information throughout the Content Lifecycle taking account of Evolving Semantics – http://pericles-project.eu/) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project aimed to address the challenge of ensuring that digital content remains accessible in an environment that is subject to continual change. I have been lucky enough to be tangentially involved in the project, injecting (as you would expect) continuum ideas.
At the conference, I was asked to speak on two panels, one on OAIS (Open Archival Information Systems) the influential standard defined by the space community and now due for systematic review, and on Risk Assessment. In the panel on Risk Assessment I was asked to make some comments ‘representing’ the recordkeeping community in thinking about risk assessment for preservation in the active life of complex digital objects. This panel consisted of Pip Laurenson and Patricia Falcao (Tate Modern), Tomasz Miksa (senior researcher at SBA research working on preservation of open source systems and workflows) and Simon Waddington (from Kings College London working on e-infrastructure and repository technologies).
Source @dpc pic.twitter.com/OEuOntPRJc
My contribution (in summary form) was:
The issues of preserving complex digital objects is a recursive one, and it is necessary to define the environment or available locus of attention/action first. So for these comments, my comments are directed at the risks and problems in the current workplace environment.
The current workplace has these problems with complex digital objects, too. It is a design issue. As a community we have known about these issues for over 20 years – perhaps most accessibly expressed by Terry Cook in ‘It’s 10 o’clock: do you know where your data are?’ in 1995 (available but irritatingly behind a paywall!). Examples from the workplace are: Microsoft excel spreadsheets with embedded formulae or linked spreadsheets or the encouraged practice of emailing links, not documents. The issue here is at least in part the lack of stable document identifiers, using the URL name which are at high risk of damage or loss with system upgrades or reconfiguration. The lack of persistent relationships between individual ‘document like objects’ is also a problem.
This is a systems design issue in the workplace. When should records be left in their self-referential environment? This is the current strategy of ‘in-place’ records, or retaining records in the business system. When should they be moved out of these creating environments? There are problems with how complex objects survive the transition between these environments in every day workplaces – not just in digital preservation environments. If the records don’t survive in tact in the workplace, digital preservation after the event comes far too late.
Migration is a specific point of risk. Again, this observation is not new. It was made most coherently by David Bearman in 2006 (‘Moments of Risk: Identifying Threats to Electronic Records’ Archivaria, 62, 2006 http://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/12912/14148). The two most prominent techniques are migration and emulation. Emulation is in common use in the workplace – the use of ‘readers’ to enable readable versions is often built into other software. Migration in the workplace is far more common than appreciated. There are different types of migration – software migration between versions of a product, software migration to new products, migration of systems or records between organisations. The migration rule of thumb is that there will be a 5 year interval before some type of migration is needed. If we think about how long some records need to be kept – the life of a person, perhaps – then the migration risks are huge. And not only that, but the common techniques for migration migrate the objects, but there is significantly less attention paid to ensuring the metadata, relationships and links are maintained.
The recordkeeping community has recognised this set of problems for a long time. Various initiatives are in place to address it. One of the most recent is to re-orient the old notion of appraisal to use the same disciplinary expertise now directed to determining what records need to be created/kept and apply the analysis framework multiple times at specific points of risk. This is the thinking embedded in the revised ISO 15489 – 2016. The community has also done significant work, like many other communities, in identifying risk and defining approaches to risk assessment. In particular, the ISO TR 18128, Risk Assessment for Records provides disciplinary guidance.
The problems aren’t so different for the current workplace. If we think about risk and preservation as recursive, occurring in different environments on an almost continuous basis, we can identify intervention points which have maximum impact.