CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Records Management Journal, Volume 24, Issue 1
Parts of the UK have suffered one of the wettest and stormiest winters on record according to the Met Office, the UKs National Weather Service (Met Office, 2014a). Their early statistics for January 2014, released on 30 January, show that parts of southern England had already had its wettest January since 1910 with some places England receiving twice the average rainfall for the month (Met Office, 2014b). People in the south-west of the country and an area called the Somerset Levels have been evacuated from their homes and are struggling to cope with daily life. Many businesses have suffered and some, particularly in the farming community fear they will not be able to recover and that they have lost their livelihoods. It is hard to imagine the severity of their situation. The records demonstrate the severity of the weather in comparison with the past but do we understand the cause? Some are blaming global warming but is there evidence to support this?
Speaking ahead of the launch of a Met Office report (Met Office and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Natural and Environmental Research Council, 2014) into recent climatic events, Dame Julia Slingo, the Met Offices chief scientist, spoke of this being the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years (BBC, 2014) referring to their records which go back to 1766. She referred to the intensity and prolonged period of bad weather as being “very unusual and “exceptional but noted it was not possible to say it is “unprecedented. She did say, however, that “all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change (BBC, 2014).
The report links our extreme weather conditions to changes in weather patterns in Indonesia “associated with higher than normal ocean temperatures in that region (BBC, 2014) which have, in turn, upset the pattern of the Asia-Pacific and North Atlantic jet streams. The effect on Canada and the USA has been exceptionally cold weather and significant snowfall. No doubt scientists and others will be accessing these to assess whether or not this is a very unusual situation, a regular cyclical pattern or perhaps is indicative of a more recent trend. I cannot help but wonder if any archives, public or private, have been affected by flood damage, etc. but have no knowledge of it being the case. Readers of this issue may contact me with information. There are no articles in this issue relating to climatic conditions but there are some very interesting contributions from authors literally across the globe.
Dr Gillian Oliver, University of Wellington, New Zealand contributes an interesting investigation into the tensions inherent in developing international standards. Drawing on previous published studies which have highlighted the pivotal role of the people involved and the negative and positive effects of conflicts during the process, she suggests social capital has an important role in success. She opines that such development of mutual trust between members of the ISO committee responsible for 15489 may well have been “instrumental in its initial publication but may have masked underlying differences in belief. As the standard is currently being revised, the article provides a timely perspective for the records community on why standard setting is so challenging; and for those of us involved in the work it may provide some comfort that we are not the only domain to find the process challenging. I was particularly interested in the reference to work by Jakobs (2009) in the IT domain where two different types of standards are distinguished: so-called “reactive standards developed for existing services/technologies and “anticipatory standards developed for new services/technologies. He notes the latter offer greater opportunity to incorporate the various perspectives of the committee members involved but my question would be “does that, by definition, make consensus more difficult to achieve?. Research I conducted with colleagues a decade ago (before Jakobs study) into the impact of ISO 15489 (McLeod and Childs, 2005) generated debate about the nature of standards and their role – “how to standards documenting best practice vs “strategic standards which are ahead of practice and “have a role in agenda setting rather than just documenting the status quo (McLeod and Childs, 2007). These compare with Jakobs types albeit the terms used are different. We concluded that if the audience for 15489 is record professionals a “how to standard provides “a solid base for the profession and help to reinforce best practice. But, if records managers are to be proactive, then they also need a strategic standard … At the time, some of the experts who participated in the research felt that ISO 15489 was both a “how to and a strategic standard.
Proscovia Svärd, a research student at the University of Amsterdam, reports the findings of her research on information culture. She shares an interesting case study of a medium-sized Belgian municipality, a government organisation which works with the countrys citizens, that explored the attitudes of its employees towards the management and value of information/records. She used the information culture assessment framework developed by Oliver (2011). What a coincidence that a different article by Oliver appears in this issue. Svards findings provide evidence of how information culture affects the way public information/records are managed and adds to our appreciation of the importance of focusing attention on this phenomenon.
From information culture to information governance. Monica Mensah and Musah Adams of the University of Ghana examine the relationship between corporate governance and records management in public and private hospitals in Ghana, in an attempt to discover how effective and efficient management of a hospitals records can facilitate its governance obligations. They found that, in both sectors, existing records management standards, practices and systems were inadequate and undermined the contribution records made to governance. Their study provides an interesting comparator with other countries, such as the UK and the USA, where standards and systems are much more developed in light of, for example, reports and guidance and regulatory requirements.
Elaine Gohs contribution is partly based on research conducted for the Records in the Cloud collaborative project1 led by Professor Luciana Duranti at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Based at UBC, Goh analyses court cases relating to audiovisual materials in the cloud from three Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, and Singapore) to illustrate how legislation lags behind advances in technology. This is something that the profession has long commented on but what is particularly interesting in her article is the discussion of trans-border, supra-national legislation in the development of model laws for managing and preserving records in the cloud. Goh draws a fascinating parallel with existing legislation of this kind, viz. international maritime law, which she notes is quite timely, with cloud service providers such as Google building data centres on ships which can be stationed in international waters (MailOnline, 2013). As more information is created, stored and shared in the cloud the applicability of national laws is increasingly questioned and the concept of extraterritoriality ripe for further exploration.
I cannot help but reflect on the threads that bind the contributions in this issue together, despite them being submitted quite independently by their authors. The different roles of people and of culture are prominent, together with the timeliness of the topics under the microscope.
This issue also includes reviews of two edited books. Susan Maxwell reviews Perspectives on Womens Archives edited by Tanya Zanish-Belcher and Anke Voss; Michael Moss reviews Archives and Recordkeeping edited by Caroline Brown.
We had an excellent response to our recent call for papers for a special issue on big data and open data and look forward to bringing you that, guest edited by Dr Anne Thurston, Director of the IRMT, in 2014.
1. Records in the Cloud project www.recordsinthecloud.org
BBC (2014), “Met Office: evidence suggests climate change link to storms, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26084625 (accessed 9 February 2014)
McLeod, J. and Childs, S. (2005), “Assessing the impact of ISO assessing the impact of ISO 15489: the first international standard for records management, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, final project report (project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)), available at: http://www.northumbria.ac.uk
McLeod, J. and Childs, S. (2007), “Consulting records management oracles – a Delphi in practice, Archival Science, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 147–166
MailOnline (2013), “Is Google building a Navy? Internet giant launches second floating data centre, available at: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2479299/Second-floating-Google-data-center-spotted-Maine.html (accessed 30 October 2013)
Met Office (2014a), “Record wet January for parts of southern Britain, available at: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk (accessed 30 January 2014)
Met Office (2014b), “A global perspective on the recent storms and floods in the UK, available at: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2014/uk-storms-and-floods (accessed 7 February 2014)
Met Office and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Natural and Environmental Research Council (2014), “The recent storms and floods in the UK, Crown Copyright, available at: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk (accessed February 2014)