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Study on the Long-term Retention of Selected Scientific and Technical Records of the Federal Government: Working Papers APPENDIX B Pertinent Recommendations from the National Academy of Public Administration's 1991 Report1 NARA should take a strategic, active approach to securing earlier and more reliable transfer of electronic databases. It should be supported in its efforts by the central staff agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, the General Services Administration, the General Accounting Office, and other federal organizations with governmentwide missions. NARA must vigorously pursue the numerous electronic databases not submitted during this study. NARA should take steps to stay up-to-date with electronic database developments in the agencies, supported as needed by the central staff agencies. NARA should participate actively in the development of a governmentwide inventory or locator system, as a means of keeping abreast of agency databases. NARA must have access to any governmentwide locator, and to the extent possible, include its unrestricted holdings in the inventory. NARA should involve itself in existing processes that would lead to earlier and better identification of electronic databases and consistency in guidelines across agencies. Groups such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee, CENDI (the interagency committee consisting of heads of scientific and technical information centers), the Federal Statistical Agencies Group, and others would lend support to NARA 's efforts to preserve federal electronic databases. NARA should establish interagency advisory groups on electronic databases. Such groups would have the effect of increasing interaction between its archivists and the agencies, as well as providing forums for regular exchange of information. NARA should emphasize the involvement of the originating agencies in the records appraisal process, including systematically seeking program managers' and specialized scholars' judgments on the historical and research significance of databases. Such outside scholarly consultants should be brought in before agencies decide to go on line and before they transfer major components of systems to NARA. NARA should obtain expert advice in specific subareas, including expert users and developers of relevant databases as well as historians from within the agencies, universities and research institutes, and other organizations. NARA, with appropriate assistance from key central staff agencies mentioned earlier, should work to ensure that preservation of records is made an integral part of information systems design as a governmentwide rule, insisting especially that archival concerns be addressed from the outset in designing electronic databases. 1 Note: Excerpted from The Archives of the Future: Archival Strategies for the Treatment of Electronic Databases, National Academy of Public Administration, Washington, D.C., 1991, pp. vi-ix. Two recommendations have been omitted as not pertinent to this report, and the numbering consequently has been altered.
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Study on the Long-term Retention of Selected Scientific and Technical Records of the Federal Government: Working Papers NARA should place greater emphasis on developing guidelines and agreements with the agencies to ensure provision of data in a usable form, i.e., relatively clear, hardware and software independent, and appropriate periodicity. NARA should include in its GAPS directory of electronic databases in the National Archives those scheduled as well as those accepted. The panel supports NARA's efforts in building the Archival Information Systems and PRESNET to reflect the total holdings of the National Archives. NARA should improve and publicize its system for assessing how much and what kind of documentation agencies should supply for individual databases. With cooperation from OMB and NIST, NARA should continue to play an aggressive role in developing and promulgating governmentwide standards for documentation of electronic databases. When appropriate, additional Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) in this area should be developed. This effort should include standards for documentation of textual as well as statistical databases. With regard to documentation standards, NARA should actively seek to document data collection methods, error profiles and error measurement, and use in the agency. With regard to electronic databases, NARA should investigate situations in which it is in the public interest for other organizations to retain physically the archival records under NARA guidelines and control. When authorizing other organizations to preserve databases, the National Archives should exercise control to ensure that appropriate standards and guidelines are met. NARA should execute formal agreements with agencies binding them to archival standards, including adequate access to databases. NARA should examine its relationship to large data centers such as the archives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the University of Wisconsin and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan. Data from these archives should not necessarily be excluded from NARA collections. The access and retention problems posed by contractor-provided data should be addressed. The recent trend toward agency use of private contractors to develop databases should be reassessed to ensure that there is adequate protection of data for historical and research purposes. Contracting regulations should be amended to ensure that the ultimate “ownership” and disposition of data are covered as a matter of course in any contract documents. NARA should assist agencies in developing internal policies and “minimalist” guidelines for preservation of small databases, many of which exist on desktop computers (PCs) in offices, or on laptop, notebook, or palm-held computers used in field situations of the military services or park and forest services. NARA should develop a long-term strategy for accessibility of electronic databases that incorporates providing networked access to the data and textual databases the National Archives holds.
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