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Knowledge: Document management Building a Smart Laboratory 2017


Long-term archiving: paper and microfilm records


Tere is a general perception that records will be easy to find, retrieve, and view in the distant future. Paper and microfilm records that are stored in a clean, temperature- and humidity-controlled environment could be readable for more than 100 years. However, finding and retrieving them requires some strategic planning. At the very least, they should be organised by year. Additional sub-categories or folders can be added to facilitate retrieval. Te ideal solution involves the assignment of a unique identifier to each record; the identifier containing or linking to relevant metadata to aid in searching. For large collections, this information should be stored in a database. A plan must be developed to migrate this information from its existing hardware and soſtware, aſter it becomes obsolete, to newer systems.


Long-term archiving: electronic records


We are all aware of the extremely short half- life of computer hardware and soſtware. Te soſtware authoring tools in use today will blink out of existence and be replaced by tools that have more capabilities or are compatible with current of operating systems. One can only speculate regarding the hardware and data storage media we will be using in the future. Tere will probably be no practical Rosetta Stone to help translate codes used in legacy soſtware. Maintaining authenticity and minimising


data corruption needs to be addressed. Tere have been attempts to maintain a


museum of hardware and soſtware that could help in viewing legacy records. Tese mostly failed, most notably an effort by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA lost many of its electronic records from the early 1960s and then took steps to ensure that it would not happen again. Tis resulted in the 2001 launch of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) reference model, sponsored by a global consortium of space exploration agencies concerned with data preservation. Other global consortia have come together to develop preservation


“ One can only speculate as to the nature of the hardware and data storage media we will be using in the future”


strategies. Te International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) aims at ‘developing the knowledge essential to the long-term preservation of authentic records created and/ or maintained in digital form and providing the basis for standards, policies, strategies and plans of action capable of ensuring the longevity of such material and the ability of its users to trust its authenticity.’ Finally, Australia’s Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS) provides a framework within which to capture and archive electronic records in a long-term format that is not dependent on particular hardware or soſtware. Te concepts that these global data


initiatives use for long-term preservation are the same. First, capture the content and metadata, then protect them with an immutable file format that preserves the text, images, charts and tables and renders them readable in the way the authors intended. Te emerging standard for this purpose is PDF/A, an ISO-standardised version of the portable document format (PDF). Finally, the immutable file is further protected


from tampering by digital encryption. Electronic storage media is a moving


target. It is quite unlikely that media being employed today will be used beyond the next 20 years. Te storage of electronic information on magnetic tape, pioneered by IBM in the 1970s, is not only the storage method of choice today, but its usage is increasing. Tape is far cheaper and more reliable


than any other medium used for archiving data. Tis does not mean that records from a 20-year-old tape can be retrieved readily unless a compatible drive, which could retrieve its content, has been saved in a museum. To keep electronic records for more than


10 years, a migration strategy needs to be developed and implemented now, before the museum closes.


Chapter summary


Te best approach to organising information is to decide what is important to keep and what is not. How would a researcher in the future look for things, having no knowledge of past notations and conventions? Tere are at least two good reasons for applying retention schedules. In the event of legal or regulatory motivated investigations, and/or audits, there’s bound to be information that is erroneous, conflicts with established facts, or serves no particular purpose. If there is a risk that observations and


comments can be taken out of context, items that have no real contribution to the organisation’s business should be thrown out. Records that are past their retention dates should also be discarded to avoid maintenance costs. Te cost of hardware associated with information storage continues to decrease, but the amount of labour needed to support large collections has increased sharply. A records manager should be designated and given full control of the records. Te basic guidelines are as follows:


l Understand the legal implications of electronic records;


l Establish a file plan; l Establish an electronic records preservation file plan;


l Establish an electronic records manager or management team;


l Establish and communicate policies; l Avoid point solutions; and l Don’t keep electronic records forever. n


28 www.scientific-computing.com/BASL2017


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