Electronic Records Research 1997: Resource Materials
Compilation Copyright, Archives & Museum Informatics 1998
Article Copyright, Author
WHAT IS A RELIABLE RECORD IN THE TRADITIONAL ENVIRONMENT?
RELIABLE RECORD = a record endowed with trustworthiness. Specifically, trustworthiness is conferred to a record by its degree of completeness and the degree of control on its creation procedure and/or its author's reliability. Reliability of a record is not affected by its mode, form, or state of transmission.
Completeness = see the template entitled "What is a Complete Record in a Traditional Environment?"
Creation procedure = the procedure governing the formation of the record and/or its participation in the act.
Author's reliability = the competence of the author to issue the specific document and/or the degree to which an author can be trusted. The trustworthiness of an author can be ensured by:
restricting the capacity to generate certain documents to certain persons
giving responsibility to an author for reporting only a portion of a fact
increasing the numbers of authors who report the same fact
making the same record serve different purposes and users
Mode of transmission = the method by which a record is communicated (eg. by hand, by regular mail, by FAX, by consigning it to the files and preserving it)
Form of transmission = the form that the record has when it is made or received
State of transmission = the primitiveness (i.e., order in time), completeness, and effectiveness (i.e., ability to achieve the purpose for which it was created) of a record when it is initially set aside after being made or received.. There are three states of transmission: draft, original, and copy.
Draft = temporary version of a record, prepared for purposes of correction
Original = the first complete and effective record. It is possible to have multiple originals = records contemporarily created complete and effective, as in the case of reciprocal obligations, multiple addressees, or security needs.
Copy = a reproduction of a record in any state of transmission. There are different types of copies:
simple copy = a transcription of the content of a record
imitative copy = a reproduction of the form and content of a record
pseudo-original = an imitative copy made for purpose of deception
copy in the form of original = a complete and effective record, not the first to be created
authentic copy = a copy certified by an officer authorized to execute such function
inserts or insets = records entirely or partially quoted or reported in subsequentrecords in order to renew their effects or because they constitute precedent or serve as reference
While it can be assumed that an authentic copy is more reliable than a simple copy, this derives from the controlled creation procedure, not from the state of transmission. In fact, an authentic copy is as reliable as the record it reproduces.
Procedure = the body of written or unwritten rules which establishes the formal sequence of steps, stages or phases to be undertaken in carrying out an activity. A procedure needs to be distinguished from a process = a series of motions, or activities in general, carried out to set oneself to work and go on towards each formal step of a procedure (processes can create records, which would not be reliable, because what characterizes a process is its spontaneity and the absence of rules).
A record is as reliable as the procedure in which it takes part.
Reliable procedure = a procedure that has required phases, each with its own purpose, and that is controlled in each of its phases. A typical procedure has six possible phases:
initiative = the acts which start the mechanism of the procedure
inquiry = the acts which aim to the collection of information for decision
consultation = the collection of opinions and advice
deliberation = the act of deciding
deliberation control = control on the form and substance of the decision exercised by persons not involved in it
execution = the acts giving formal character to the transaction (validation, communication, notification, publication).
Of these six phases, the necessary ones for each procedure are:
c. execution (in this phase, the one necessary element for reliability purposes is the validation = the conferring on the record of those extrinsic or intrinsic elements which make it effective, such as a signature, a seal, a stamp, or a signet
For each procedure the number and type of formal phases vary. However many they are and whatever they are, in order to have a reliable procedure, they must be clearly identifiable according to the scheme presented above, expressely regulated, and controlled.
The records created in the course of a procedure have determined relationships with the acts of which they are part. This relationships can be of four types creating four different kinds of records:
dispositive = records that substantiate the act
probative = records that provide a posteriori evidence of completed acts
supporting = records that provide written support for an oral activity
narrative = records generated in the course of non-juridical activities
Dispositive and probative records are those whose written form is required by the juridical system. Supporting and narrative records are those whose written form is optional. Thus, dispositive and probative records need to be complete according to expressed rules in order to be reliable, while the reliability of supporting and narrative records can only be assessed on the grounds of their completeness (see the minimum requirements for completeness in the template entitled "What is a Complete Record in a Traditional Environment?"), their authors' reliability, and their context of use (i.e., the circumstances in which a record is actually used, including the reasons for such use), as showed by its relationships with the other records in the aggregations in which it belongs.
Each procedural phase is characterized by a predominance of one type or another of the types of records mentioned above. For example, the execution phase features a predominance of dispositive records.
The context of use of a record is expressed by its annotations, which represent the conjunction between elements of intellectual form and of procedure, as annotations are components of intellectual form added in the course of the creation procedure. Thus, they are a bridge between the completeness aspect of a record and the procedural control on its creation. This implies that a reliable record, whether dispositive, probative, supporting or narrative, must include in its intellectual form at least the following annotations:
a. name of recipient = office or individual receiving the record