The following is by guest bloggers Jim Suderman and Hannelore Dekeyser.
Jim Suderman is a member of the Canadian research team in the UBC-based InterPARES 2 research project directed by Dr. Luciana Duranti
Hannelore Dekeyser is a legal researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT (K.U.Leuven, Belgium) where she has been working on the legal aspects of digital archiving since 2002
Theme leader Michael Lines has asked Jim and Hannelore to comment on what InterPARES is
InterPARES is the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems, directed by Dr. Luciana Duranti, University of British Columbia. To date there have been two projects aiming at developing the theoretical and methodological knowledge essential to the long-term preservation of authentic records created and/or maintained in digital form. This knowledge should provide the basis from which to formulate model policies, strategies and standards capable of ensuring the longevity of such material and the ability of its users to trust its authenticity.
How does this relate to Grey Literature? While the InterPARES research is focused on electronic records, it has drawn heavily on the science of diplomatics, which emerged in Europe in the sixteenth century to detect forgeries among legal documents through a careful analysis of the content, structure and context of a record. I don’t know where forgeries fit exactly in the definition Michael provided:
GL is a species of documentation that includes many format types: reports, pre-prints, conference proceedings, discussion papers, project evaluations, and many others. At its best it is authoritative, very current, and easily available, but GL is not always at its best… – perhaps forgeries are grey literature at its worst!
Setting the idea of forgeries aside, it is easy to see that types of documents listed in the definition of GL are used for future reference, e.g., sharing a report to support a collective decision or reading the proceedings of a conference one was unable to attend. This means that beyond simply creating these documents, they must be maintained and kept accessible to be of any use. To support this basic use, documents must have a fixed form and stable content. They must also have an identifiable context. Who wrote or assembled the documents? For what purpose? Why or under what conditions are they being made available?
This becomes critically important in the digital environment where, with word processing and desktop publishing softwares, it is so easy to modify form, i.e., document structure, and content, i.e., the information the document contains, and so difficult to prove that form and content are unchanged. Especially when transmitting them across networks and maintaining them over time. Further complicating the electronic environment are means of managing information that have little analogy with experience from the paper environment, e.g., dynamic databases, such as the inventory at Amazon.com.
InterPARES research has concluded that maintaining the authenticity of electronic records is a continuous process that begins with the creation or accumulation of the documents and involves an expanding relationship with a trusted custodian. The creator of the documents must set out the form they are to take and the content they are to hold. At the point at which the creator considers the documents to be complete, these must be fixed. At first the role of the trusted custodian (trusted because s/he cannot have a stake in the content of the documents) is limited as the decisions outlined above belong to the creator. But as time passes the custodian’s role increases due to a variety of factors, but especially technological obsolescence, which can profoundly affect documentary content and form. The creator’s decisions about form, content, and completeness provide the baseline for how the custodian maintains the documents in a system that supports preservation and access.
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Jim Suderman and Hannelore Dekeyser