The Concepts of Reliability, Accuracy and Authenticity

Research Questions

  • What does record reliability mean in the context of artistic, scientific and government activities? To what extent can the electronic records created in the course of each type of activity be considered reliable and why? What requirements on their form and controls on their creation would make us presume that they are reliable?

  • What does record accuracy mean in the context of each activity? To what extent can the electronic records created in the course of each type of activity be considered accurate and why? What controls on their creation would make us presume that these records are accurate?

  • What does authenticity mean in the context of each activity? To what extent is the definition of record authenticity adopted by InterPARES 1 relevant to the records resulting from each type of activity and from the use of increasingly complex digital technology?

  • On what basis can the records created in the course of each activity be presumed authentic? How, in the absence of such presumption, can their authenticity be verified?

  • How is the authenticity of these records affected by their transmission across space and time? What controls on the process of transmission would ensure that these records will continue to be recognized as authentic?

  • Are the conceptual requirements for reliability and authenticity developed by the UBC-MAS project and InterPARES 1 for administrative and legal records generated within databases and document management systems applicable to the records studied by InterPARES 2?

  • Do the participants in electronic transactions have shared access to reliable and accurate information about the terms and effects of the transactions? What would constitute reliable and accurate records of transactions in current electronic service delivery initiatives?

  • What would be the consequence of issuing guidelines for record creation on the nature of the records of each activity?

  • How can cultural differences, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry, and right to privacy be reflected in those guidelines?

  • What technological and intellectual tools would assist creators to generate records that can be authentically preserved over time?

  • What legal or moral obligations exist regarding the creation, use and preservation of the records under investigation?


The Domain 2 Task Force began by testing the applicability of the archival concepts of reliability, accuracy and authenticity as defined above to the records studied by this Project. The working groups within Domain 2 researched the literature of each discipline and drew on the case study research to form an understanding of the significance of the terms reliability, accuracy and authenticity in each focus area. From this understanding, a theory of ideal record-making and recordkeeping processes in the context of each activity was devised that took into consideration the diverse cultural and disciplinary environments in which the records under investigation were created, maintained and preserved. On the basis of this theory, selected processes (either hypothetical or drawn from case studies) were constituted as test cases to: (1) study records and record-making and recordkeeping in situ, (2) observe the effects of hardware and software evolution on the records, and (3) establish a set of records on which to test the guidelines for creation, maintenance and use. High-level activity models were developed to reflect commonalities and variations in record-making and recordkeeping processes across disciplines. Guidelines for records creators were drafted, tested, made available to all Project researchers for review and comments and then issued.


The outcomes of the research conducted in Domain 2 were: scholarly papers discussing the meanings of the concepts in question in each discipline, comparing and reconciling them; scholarly papers presenting a theory of reliable record-making and recordkeeping in each activity and contextualizing it; and guidelines for records creators outlining methods for the reliable production and maintenance of records that can be authentically preserved. (These Guidelines have since been translated into French, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.)


Public project documents for Domain 2 are located here.

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