The definition of the designated community(ies) (producer and user community) is arrived at through the planning processes used to create the repository and define its services. The definition will be drawn from various sources ranging from market research to service-level agreements for producers to the mission or scope of the institution within which the repository is embedded.
Meeting the needs of the designated community—the expected understandability of the information, not just access to it—will affect the digital object management, as well as the technical infrastructure of the overall repository. For appropriate long-term planning, the repository or organization must understand and institute policies to support these needs.
For a given submission of information, the repository must make clear the operational definition of understandability that is associated with the corresponding designated community(ies). The designated community(ies) may vary from one submission to another, as may the definition of understandability that establishes the repository’s responsibility in this area. This may range from no responsibility, if bits are only to be preserved, to the maintenance of a particular level of use, if understanding by the members of the designated community(ies) is determined outside the repository, to a responsibility for ensuring a given level of designated community(ies) human understanding, requiring appropriate Representation Information.
The documentation of understandability will typically include a definition of the applications the designated community(ies) will use with the information, possibly after transformation by repository services. For example, if a designated community is defined as readers of English with access to widely available document rendering tools, and if this definition is clearly associated with a given set of Content Information and Preservation Description Information, then the requirement is met.
Examples of designated community definitions include:
- General English-reading public educated to high school and above, with access to a Web Browser (HTML 4.0 capable).
- For GIS data: GIS researchers—undergraduates and above—having an understanding of the concepts of Geographic data and having access to current (2005, USA) GIS tools/computer software, e.g., ArcInfo (2005).
- Astronomer (undergraduate and above) with access to FITS software such as FITSIO, familiar with astronomical spectrographic instruments.
- Student of Middle English with an understanding of TEI encoding and access to an XML rendering environment.
- Variant 1: Cannot understand TEI
- Variant 2: Cannot understand TEI and no access to XML rendering environment
- Variant 3: No understanding of Middle English but does understand TEI and XML
- Two groups: the publishers of scholarly journals and their readers, each of whom have different rights to access material and different services offered to them.
Documentation for this TRAC requirement can be found in ICPSR's mission statement (published on our web portal) and in our deposit agreements.