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Digital diplomatics and measurement of electronic public data qualities: What lessons should be learned?

Basma Makhlouf Shabou (Department of Information Studies, Geneva School of Business Administration, Geneva, Switzerland)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 16 March 2015




This paper aims to present a recent study on the definition and measurement of quality dimensions of public electronic records and archives (QADEPs: Qualités des archives et documents électroniques publics). It develops an original model and a complete method with tools to define and measure electronic public data qualities within public institutions. It highlights also the relationship between diplomatics principles and the measurement of trustworthiness of electronic data in particular. This paper presents a general overview of the main results of this study, with also illustrative examples to demonstrate the feasibility of measuring the qualities of electronic archives in the context of public institutions.


This research was conducted in two phases. The first one was the conceptual phase in which the quality dimensions were identified and defined with specific sets of indicators and variables. The second phase was the empirical phase which involved the testing of the model on real electronic documents belonging to several public institutions to validate its relevance and applicability. These tests were performed at the Archives of the State of Wallis and the Archives of the State of Geneva, thanks to different measurement tools designed especially for this stage of the research.


The QADEPs model analyzes the qualities of electronic records in public institutions through three dimensions: trustworthiness, exploitability and representativeness. These dimensions were divided into eight sub-dimensions comprising 17 indicators for a total of 46 variables. These dimensions and their variables tried to cover the main aspects of quality standards for electronic data and public documents. The study demonstrates that nearly 60 per cent of the measured variables could be automated.

Research limitations/implications

The QADEPs model was defined and tested in a Swiss context on a limited sample of electronic public data to validate, essentially, its feasibility. It would be useful to extend this approach and test it on a broader sample in different contexts abroad.

Practical implications

The decisionmaking of records retention in organizations and public institutions in particular is difficult to establish and justify because it is based generally on subjective and non-defendable practices. The QADEPs model offers specific metrics with their related measuring tools to evaluate and identify what is valuable and what is eliminable within the whole set of institutional electronic information. The model should reinforce the information governance of those institutions and help them control the risks related to information management.


The current practice of archival appraisal does not yet invest in a meticulous examination of the nature of documents that should be preserved permanently. The lack of studies on the definition and measurement of the qualities of electronic and public electronic records prevents verification as to whether archival materials are significant. This paper fills in some of the gaps.



The present study was supported by the University of Applied Sciences and Art of Western Switzerland ( Genève). It has been carried out by Basma Makhlouf Shabou in collaboration with Mellifluo, Rey, Schneider and Boder from HEG-Geneva; Fluckiger and Ducry from Archives of State of Geneva; Dubois from Archives of State of Wallis; Kellerhals from Swiss Federal Archives; Christophe Graf from the University of Bern; and Wildi from Docuteam Sàrl.


Makhlouf Shabou, B. (2015), "Digital diplomatics and measurement of electronic public data qualities: What lessons should be learned?", Records Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 56-77.



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