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Friday, October 21, 2011

TRAC: A1.2: Succession planning

A1.2 Repository has an appropriate, formal succession plan, contingency plans, and/or escrow arrangements in place in case the repository ceases to operate or the governing or funding institution substantially changes its scope. 

Part of the repository’s perpetual-care promise is a commitment to identify appropriate successors or arrangements should the need arise. Consideration needs to be given to this responsibility while the repository or data is viable—not when a crisis occurs—to avoid irreparable loss. Organizationally, the data in a repository can be at risk regardless of whether the repository is run by a commercial organization or a government entity (national library or archives). At government-managed repositories and archives, a change in government that significantly alters the funding, mission, collecting scope, or staffing of the institution may put the data at risk. These risks are similar to those faced by commercial and researchbased repositories and should minimally be addressed by succession plans for significant collections within the greater repository.

A formal succession plan should include the identification of trusted inheritors, if applicable, and the return of digital objects to depositors with adequate prior notification, etc. If a formal succession plan is not in place, the repository should be able to point to indicators that would form the basis of a plan, e.g., partners, commitment statements, likely heirs. Succession plans need not specify handoff of entire repository to a single organization if this is not feasible. Multiple inheritors are possible so long as the data remains accessible.

Evidence: Succession plan(s); escrow plan(s); explicit and specific statement documenting the intent to ensure continuity of the repository, and the steps taken and to be taken to ensure continuity; formal documents describing exit strategies and contingency plans; depositor agreements.

ICPSR has formalized succession planning and contingency planning via its commitment to Data-PASS, the Data Preservation Alliance for the Social Sciences.  As noted on the Data-PASS web portal:

Organizations join the Data-PASS partnership for several reasons. Membership in Data-PASS helps insure against preservation loss. Data-PASS safeguards the collections of its members through transfer protocols, succession planning, and live replication of collections. If a member organization requires off-site replication of its collections, the partnership will provide it. And if a member organization is no longer institutionally capable of preserving and disseminating a collection, the collection can be preserved and disseminated through the partnership.

This commitment helps ensure that content currently  held and managed by ICPSR will continue to be available even if ICPSR ceases to exist.

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