The Preservation of the Integrity of Electronic Records



1. INTRODUCTION

Aim of Research:
To identify and define the requirements for creating, handling and preserving reliable and authentic electronic records.
Site of Research:
School of Library, Archival & Information Studies, University of British Columbia
Research Team:
Luciana Duranti, principal investigator
Terry Eastwood, Co-Investigator
Heather MacNeil, research assistant
Duration of Research:
April 1994-March 1997
Funding for research:
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC).


2. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF RESEARCH-RELATED ARTICLES

  1. Duranti, Luciana and Heather MacNeil. "The Protection of the Integrity of Electronic Records: An Overview of the UBC-MAS Research Project." Archivaria 42 (Fall 1996): 46-67.
  2. Duranti, Luciana. "Reliability and Authenticity: The Concepts and their Implications." Archivaria 39 (Spring 1995): 5-10.
  3. Duranti, Luciana and Heather MacNeil. "Protecting Electronic Evidence: A Third Progress Report on a Research Study and its Methodology." Archivi & Computer anno VI, fasc. 5 (1996): 343-404.
  4. Duranti, Luciana, Heather MacNeil and William E. Underwood, "Protecting Electronic Evidence: A Second Progress Report on a Research Study and its Methodology." Archivi & Computer anno VI, fasc. 1 (1996): 37-70.
  5. Duranti, Luciana and Terry Eastwood. "Protecting Electronic Evidence: A Progress Report on a Research Study and its Methodology." Archivi & Computer anno V: fasc. 3 (1995):213-250.
  6. Eastwood, Terry. "Reliable and Authentic Electronic Records." Proceedings of the American Society of Information Science (August 1996): forthcoming.
  7. MacNeil, Heather. "Protecting Electronic Evidence: A Final Progress Report on a Research Study and Its Methodology." Archivi & Computer anno VII, fasc. 1 (1997): forthcoming.
  8. MacNeil, Heather. "The Implications of the UBC Research Results for Archival Description in General and the Canadian Rules for Archival Description in Particular." Archivi & Computer anno VI, fasc. 2 (1996):239-46.
  9. Thibodeau, Kenneth and Daryll R. Prescott. "Reengineering Records Management: The U.S. Department of Defense, Records Management Task Force." Archivi & Computer anno VI, fasc. 1 (1996): 71-78.


3. OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH PROJECT

The objectives of the research project are:


4. METHODOLOGY

The methodological approach of the research project is deductive, i.e., it begins with a set of general premises and then considers whether these premises hold up in particular instances. The theoretical basis for the general premises is provided by principles and concepts of diplomatics and archival science.

Diplomatics is a body of concepts and methods, originally developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, "for the purpose of proving the reliability and authenticity of documents." Over the centuries it has evolved "into a very sophisticated system of ideas about the nature of records, their genesis and composition, their relationships with the actions and persons connected to them, and with their organizational, social, and legal context." [2]

Whereas diplomatics studies records as individual entities, "archival science studies them as aggregations, analyses their documentary and functional interrelationships, and studies the ways in which the records with all their relations can be controlled and communicated." [3]

The first concepts to be defined and elaborated in some detail were reliability and authenticity. Reliability refers to a recordís authority and trustworthiness, i.e., its ability to stand for the fact it is about. The concept is linked exclusively to records creation. Authenticity, on the other hand, refers to a recordís reliability over time and is linked to the recordís status, mode, and form of transmission and the manner of its preservation and custody. The concepts of reliability and authenticity and their application in traditional and electronic recordkeeping environments are described in greater detail in Article 1 (see bibliography).

With that foundation established, the research team then developed a set of eight templates that identify the necessary and sufficient components of records in both traditional and electronic recordkeeping environments. The first four templates define the necessary and sufficient components of:

The last four templates hypothesize the necessary and sufficient components of

The project's methodology is described in greater detail in Article 5 (see bibliography).


5. RESEARCH FINDINGS

The findings of the research project fall into two categories:
    (a) specific methods for ensuring the reliability and authenticity of electronic records; and
    (b) management issues concerning the maintenance and preservation of reliable and authentic records.

Under (a), the findings are, that:

  1. the reliability and authenticity of electronic records are best ensured by embedding procedural rules in the overall records system and by integrating business and documentary procedures;
  2. the reliability and authenticity of electronic records are best guaranteed by emphasizing their documentary context; and
  3. the reliability and authenticity of electronic records can only be preserved if they are managed together with all the other records belonging in the same fonds.

Under (b), the findings are, that:

  1. the life-cycle of the managerial activity directed to the preservation of the integrity of electronic records can be neatly divided into two phases: one phase directed to the control of the creation and maintenance of reliable and authentic active and semiactive records, and the other phase directed to the preservation of authentic inactive records; and
  2. the integrity of electronic records is best preserved by entrusting the creating body with responsibility for their reliability and the preserving body with responsibility for their authenticity.

The major findings of the research are discussed in detail in a forthcoming article.[4]The complete findings of the research will be reported in a book, the working title of which is Electronic Records: Their Nature, Reliability and Authenticity. The book "will analyse in depth the concepts on which the research has been built, the hypotheses developed and elaborated and the theoretical and methodological findings of the project." [5]


6. COLLABORATION WITH U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE RECORDS MANAGEMENT TASK FORCE

Between January 1995 and October 1996, the UBC research team collaborated with a team of reengineering experts from the United States Department of Defense Records Management Task Force (DoD-Rm TF). The Task Force was seeking to develop requirements for records management support systems (both electronic and non-electronic) for the effective management and use of Department of Defense records. The DoD research is described in more detail in Article 8 (see bibliography).

Both the UBC research team and the DoD reengineering team were interested in interpreting archival and diplomatic concepts using a standard modelling technique(i.e., Integrated DEFinition language). The templates developed by the UBC research team provided the concepts to be interpreted, while IDEF provided the means of translating those concepts into activity models and entity models which show the relationships of their components from well identified viewpoints and for determined purposes.

The activity models define all the activities associated with managing an agencyís records, e.g., CREATE RECORDS, HANDLE RECORDS, PRESERVE RECORDS, while the entity model defines all the entities associated with those activities, e.g., OFFICE, CLASS, PROCEDURE, DOSSIER, RECORD. To understand the models, it is necessary to read them in conjunction with the attached glossary.

Activity Models

The activity models have been developed using a standard modeling technique that consists of the steps described below.
  1. definition of the scope, viewpoint, purpose and approach of the model. The "scope" identifies the extent and size of the modeling effort by defining the highest level of activity. The "viewpoint" identifies for whom the activity modeling is being done--a physical or juridical person. It is essential never to change inadvertently viewpoint while building the model. The "purpose" identifies the reason for which the model is being built. The "approach" identifies the conceptual foundations of the modelís designers.
  2. definition of the context of the activity which is being modeled. This is done by identifying a) the "controls", that is, what guides or regulate the activity (they appear at the top of the diagram, with arrows pointing down towards the activity); b) the "mechanisms", that is, the technological and human resources used to perform the activity (they appear at the bottom of the diagram, with arrows pointing up towards the activity); c) the "inputs", that is, what initiates or triggers the activity and is transformed, consumed, or becomes part of the result (output) of the activity (they appear on the left side of the diagram, with arrows pointing to the right towards the activity); and d) the "outputs", that is, the results produced by the activity (they appear on the right side of the diagram, with arrows pointing to the right away from the activity);
  3. decomposition of the highest level activity into its component activities. This hierarchical decomposition occurs at as many levels as needed. The highest level activity is called the "parent", while the lower level activities are called "children", but, when further decomposed, themselves become parents. Each level of decomposition is called a "node", is numbered according to the position of decomposition, and is assigned a unique "title" that reflects the activity to which the diagram applies; and
  4. "tunneling" those controls and mechanisms that apply to all levels of activity as decomposed, that is, identifying them by a visual means at the highest level at which they apply, and eliminating them from the lower levels diagrams. This is done by bracketing the relevant arrows.[6]
Procedural rules have been written for the MANAGE ARCHIVAL FRAMEWORK activities that appear on diagrams A11, A12, A13, and A14, the CREATE RECORDS activities that appear on diagram A2, the HANDLE RECORDS activities that appear on diagram A3, and the PRESERVE RECORDS activities that appear on diagram A4. To access the rules, simply click on the appropriate activity box, e.g., A11 SURVEY RECORDS CREATOR. The procedural rules specify how the activities are carried out. They provide the foundation for the development of agency-specific procedures for recordkeeping and record-preservation as well as the basis for the development of functional specifications for records management application software.

The activity models should be read in the following order, for ease of clarity and comprehension.

A-OF
A-0
A0 NODE TREE
A0
A1 NODE TREE
A1
A11
A12
A13
A14
A2
A3
A4

Each activity model has been scanned in black & white for you to consult. Following each activity model image is a list of terms and rules and of related activity models cited, with links to the appropriate glossary entry, rule or activity model.

Entity Model

The entity model has been developed using a standard modeling technique that consists of the steps described below.

  1. definition of the "entities", that is, sets of real or abstract things, involved with the highest level activity and all its component activities. Each entity must be made up of things having common attributes or characteristics, must have a unique name with always the same meaning, and can have any number of relationships with the other entities identified.
  2. definition of the specific and non-specific relationships which associate the identified entities, and their representation by means of connecting lines ending with symbols such as a diamond, meaning "0 or 1", a bullet, meaning "1 or many", or a circle, meaning "instance of";
  3. definition of the attributes of each entity. "Attributes" are the characteristics or properties associated with each entity, whereas "attribute instances" are specific characteristics of individual members of the entity. [7]

An entity model, built according to IDEF language, cannot include entities for which there is not more than one instance. Entities representing archival concepts of which there is only one instance (i.e., agency, classification scheme, recordkeeping system, competent archival body), therefore, appear on the model as context entities and they are shown at the top of the model above the solid black horizontal line, along with their identifying relationships. For example,"an agency has one recordkeeping system," "a recordkeeping system includes one classification scheme," and "one recordkeeping system includes one protocol register per year."

The entity model has been scanned, and may be consulted in the same manner as the activity models. Following the entity model image is a list of all the terms and some of the attributes cited, with links to the appropriate glossary entry and attribute list.


7. COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE RESEARCH

You may contact the team members at their personal e-mail addresses, or at the mailing address for the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, provided below.

Luciana Duranti, principal investigator
Terry Eastwood, co-investigator
Heather MacNeil, research assistant

School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
831-1956 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C.
Canada
V6T 1Z1


ENDNOTES

[To view footnotes in any file, click on the note marker in the text to jump to the note, and then on the note number to jump back to the appropriate point in the main text]

[1] From Article 5 in bibliography, p. 215.
[2] From Article 5 in bibliography, pp. 214-15.
[3] From Article 5 in bibliography, p. 215.
[4] See Article 1 in bibliography
[5] From Article 4 in bibliography, p. 46.
[6] Article 5 in bibliography, p. 218.
[7] Article 5 in bibliography, pp. 218-19.


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