Archiving the Records of Contemporary Science
Liège 1996

Working Groups

Working Groups were allocated prior to the conference to draft the conference statement and develop sets of strategies for specific areas:

  1. Strategies for Institutional Archives / Archivists
  2. Strategies at the National Level
  3. Strategies at the International Level

Working Group 1 - Strategies for Institutional Archives / Archivists

Leader: Anne Barrett (UK)
Didier de Vriese (Belgium)
Denise Ogilvie (France)
Frank Scheelings (Belgium)
Sofie de Winter (Belgium)

The strategy proposed at institutional level is to encourage University and other institutional archivists to investigate a number of issues concerning recordkeeping. The model for these investigations will be taken, in the first instance, from two French and one Australian questionnaires that have already been implemented. The results of these studies will be analysed by the group, and the resulting information be fed into the national and international strategies: A document in the form of 'Guidelines for the Interviewer' will be produced and will be published on the Internet. The purpose of the questionnaire will be to raise awareness of the need for recordkeeping by records creators and conversely to raise the awareness of the archivist as to the nature of records and state of recordkeeping in their institution.

Working Group 2 - Strategies at the National Level

Leader: Gianni Paoloni (Italy)
Andrée Despy Meyer (Belgium)
Peter Harper (UK)
Christina Jonsson (Sweden)

Most scientists and record managers seem to consider the problem of the preservation of science archives as irrelevant. Archivists and historians of contemporary science wish to draw the attention of the science communities to the potential dangers coming from the loss of evidence on the research process, and to stress the importance of documenting the process itself besides the obvious importance of publishing and/or patenting results.

The increasing use of information technology by the scientific communities makes the problem of science archives more urgent. Although there is no consensus at present on standards for the preservation, validation and appraisal of the records produced by new electronic procedures, that is not an excuse for inaction. Archivists themselves have a responsibility for developing a study of records produced by the changing ways of scientific activity.

Science is an international endeavour, and key issues such as the possible loss of the memory of the scientific research work need to have an international framework. Nevertheless, problems in science archives will be dealt with mainly at the national level.

Appropriate institutions, according to the varying administrative organisation and traditions of different countries, should be encouraged to undertake national surveys on science archives with particular reference to the use of research networks and electronic record keeping (both administrative and technical) in the context of scientific activity.

Universities, learned societies, academies, discipline-based professional associations and other scientific organisations may be of great help in promoting projects (involving a wide range of archival, historical, scientific, and technological expertise) on the preservation and usage of records in major scientific institutions and research centers, both university and non-university based. The relationship between electronic and non-electronic records, whether they be administrative records, policy records, scientific and technical records, data and scientific evidence, should be investigated. It is expected that this investigation will demonstrate that documenting the research process has significant value for the institutions' economic management, research policy strategies and decision making, and not just for the historical dimension.

These projects would also provide the intellectual and practical basis for the determination of appropriate standards for science archives, in all media, both in respect of preservation and planned disposal. These projects might lead wherever possible to the establishment of a national coordinating body or a national information and reference organisation. All institutions and individuals owning or having custody of scientific archives should be encouraged to cooperate with this body.

Working Group 3 - Strategies at the International Level

Leader: Joan Warnow-Blewett (USA)
Finn Aaserud (Denmark)
Ginette Gablot (France)
Philip Kent (Australia)
Carmelia Opsomer (Belgium)

Our targets on the international level are historians and archivists of modern science.

To help us reach our targets we propose to use the parent organisations of this conference: The Division for the History of Science (especially its Commission on Bibliography and Documentation ) and The International Council on Archives (especially the science subgroup of its SUV section).

We ask:

  1. That ASAP extend its STAMA listserve and World Wide Web homepage to include the DHS Commission as well as the ICA section.

  2. That information be gathered and disseminated regarding:

Longer Term Effort

To encourage national committees of DHS to initiate national efforts to collect information on papers of scientists in repositories and then to help secure papers now outside of repositories/depositories - the goal is to have ongoing programmes.


Working Group 4 - The Conference Statement

Leader: Gavan McCarthy (Australia)
Rod Home (Australia)
John Krige (France)
Patricia Radelet (Belgium)
Julia Sheppard (UK)
Odile Welfelé-Capy (France)

See above.

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 12 September 1996.
Prepared by: Tim Sherratt
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 25 February 1998

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