InterPARES Trust

Dr. Patricia Franks and Dr. Gillian Oliver, faculty members at the San José State University School of Information, hold key roles on an international team that recently received a $2.5 million grant to study the issue of trust in a digital and networked society.

The interdisciplinary project called "Trust and Digital Records in an Increasingly Networked Society," also known as the InterPARES Trust, is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Work on the five-year study began April 2, 2013.

Franks wrote a blog post about the study on the Center for Information Research and Innovation (CIRI) blog. Describing the rationale for the project, she wrote that the methods used to search for the perpetrators of the April 15 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon “clearly illustrate the vast amount of electronically stored information that can be accessed by authorities. The call to the public for information, including digital images and video, illustrates the power of crowdsourcing to aggregate information.” 

According to Franks, this power raises many questions about trust. “Are there grounds for trusting the institutions and/or professionals who hold digital records about us to make the right decisions regarding keeping the records safe and making them accessible only to those who have a right to see them? Can we trust them to use the records for good and in a transparent way, disposing of them when required, and selecting reliable Internet providers for storing and managing them?”

The goal of the grant-funded project is to generate the frameworks needed to support the development of integrated and consistent local, national, and international policies, procedures, regulations, standards, and legislation concerning digital records entrusted to the Internet. Ultimately, the aim of these efforts is to ensure public trust grounded in evidence of good governance, a strong digital economy, and a persistent digital memory. This includes records kept in social media and the cloud. The project’s North American team will hold a planning meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in June, and they will conduct a workshop on the topic of cloud security in Seattle, WA., in October.

Led by Dr. Luciana Duranti at the University of British Columbia, the study “is the latest phase of ongoing research that began in 1999 and focuses on long-term preservation and verification of digital records for a variety of users,” Franks said.

The universities and other organizations that make up the alliance are divided into teams representing North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australasia and Africa. The SJSU iSchool is on the North American team, and Franks is a co-applicant for the grant who will represent San José State University at meetings. Oliver, who lives in New Zealand, is the director of the Australasian team.

The project’s interdisciplinary team of academic researchers has expertise in archival science, records management, diplomatics, law, information technology, communication and media, e-commerce, health informatics, cybersecurity, information governance and assurance, digital forensics, computer engineering, and information policy.

The project also involves a Multinational Institutions Team, with members from UNESCO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Monetary Fund, International Records Management Trust of London, International Centre for the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property of Roma Italy, and NATO Archives.

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