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Friday, December 9, 2011

TRAC: A3.4: Formal, periodic review

A3.4 Repository is committed to formal, periodic review and assessment to ensure responsiveness to technological developments and evolving requirements.

Long-term preservation is a shared and complex responsibility. A trusted digital repository contributes to and benefits from the breadth and depth of community-based standards and practice. Regular review is a requisite for ongoing and healthy development of the repository. The organizational context of the repository should determine the frequency of, extent of, and process for self-assessment. The repository must also be able to provide a specific set of requirements it has defined, is maintaining, and is striving to meet. (See also A3.9.)

Evidence: A self-assessment schedule, timetables for review and certification; results of self-assessment; evidence of implementation of review outcomes. 

Steve Abrams from the California Digital Library gave an interesting talk earlier this year about the notion of applying a Neighborhood Watch metaphor to digital archives.  You can find a PDF of the slideshow here.

This is a nice paradigm, and it fits well with some of the work ICPSR is doing with its Data-PASS partners.  We're using the Stanford Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) software in a Private LOCKSS Network (PLN) to build a distributed archival storage network.  And in addition to the PLN, we have also built tools to verify the integrity of the PLN and its content.  We call this additional layer the SAFE-Archive, and the development has been led by the Odum Institute at the University of North Carolina.

I also see ICPSR periodically assess itself on a regular basis in response to opportunities to expand its reach thematically or technologically.  For example, as ICPSR enters into the world of digital preservation for video as part of two recent grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this drives ICPSR to re-evaluate how it manages content.

I'm not sure that these types of activities are as formal as the TRAC requirement might like, and so the action item might look more like a documentation project rather than adding a new activity into ICPSR's standard operating procedures.

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