Bringing new skills into RDA: the Archives and Records Professionals for Research Data Interest Group
The Archives and Records professionals Interest Group first came together as a Birds of a Feather session at Plenary 6 in Paris, September 2015. Although existing RDA groups were already providing a forum for information professionals (for example the Libraries for Research Data Group) and for those interested in historical data (such as the Data Rescue Interest Group), we felt that a new Interest Group would be welcome for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed that RDA had not yet engaged with the archives and records management community - we did not post on high profile listservs or attend archives events, and the community was not likely to be aware that RDA was relevant to their work. Secondly, we believe that professional archivists and records managers have unique training and skills which are applicable to research data management, and that encouraging these professionals to become members would have great benefits for RDA and its goals.
For those outside the profession, it may not be clear what the distinction is between an archivist or records professional, and another information professional such as a librarian or data curator. Even within the profession there are some regional or geographic differences in how the terms “archivist”, “records manager”, “recordkeeper” or “records professional” are used. The International Council on Archives provides a basis for our understanding of what archives are however - their characteristics include their long-term value, their uniqueness, their authenticity and their ability to provide reliable evidence of an event or transaction (http://www.ica.org/en/discover-archives-and-our-profession). The people who maintain and manage these records from creation through to long term preservation are the archives and records professionals we are referring to.
So what is the relationship between a records professional and research data management? In some cases, a records professional may be the person within their organisation who engages with (or leads) research data management practice. We would like our Interest Group to create a platform for these professionals to discuss their experiences, and the challenges or opportunities of their role; and also to ensure that the profession is represented within RDA. More broadly, we feel that records professionals have specific skills which could be very valuable to research data management generally.
At our Interest Group meeting at Plenary 7 in Tokyo, we had a very useful discussion around archival competencies and how they could apply to research data management. The OCLC report “The Archival Advantage" (http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-archival-advantage-2015.html) formed the basis of the conversation, the skills described within it were presented, and their relevance to research data were teased out. Some of the most interesting included appraisal (the process of determining whether or not materials have legal, informational, or other types of value); capturing context (the context of material is comprised of the circumstances surrounding its creation, ownership, custody, and intended use); determining authenticity (that a record is complete and unchanged; it has not been subject to forgery, manipulation, or any other type of alteration since it left the creator’s custody) and ensuring permanence ( the preservation of the authentic materials into the foreseeable future). It was clear from this meeting that archival competencies are relevant to research data, and of interest to the broader research data community.
Following our Plenary 7 meeting, the Interest Group’s charter has been sent to the RDA Technical Advisory Board for approval. In the meantime, the Group’s page and mailing list are active, and we are planning for our next face to face meeting at Plenary 8 in Denver. We would like to encourage any interested RDA members to join the group, as we do not only wish to engage with archivists and records professionals, and all input is welcome. You can view our group page here: https://rd-alliance.org/groups/archives-records-professionals-for-research-data.html
Rebecca Grant, co-chair, Archives and Records Professionals for Research Data IG