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Australian Science Archives Project

Annual Report

ISSN 0817-7174

Research and Development

ASAP has always been an innovative organisation. Our capacity to see opportunities and adapt our processes has enabled us to survive and grow. In the past, however, such developmental work has been undertaken almost solely on the basis of immediate needs. Our financial insecurity made it difficult to devote funds to more open-ended research, or even to the detailed assessment and description of our unique tools and methodologies. However, much has changed over the past year, enabling us to take significant steps towards the expansion of ASAP's research activities.

The steady flow of archival work that has firmed ASAP's financial foundations has also accelerated the development of our processes. There is much exciting work that needs to be documented. Contact with archival organisations within Australia and overseas has emphasised the significance of this work. At the same time, ASAP has benefited enormously from the ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm of our new staff. Their research interests and professional development need to be accommodated if ASAP is to remain vigorous and innovative. We have the ideas, we have the people and, finally, we have the resources to enable us to begin to chart a long-term archival research agenda.

Establishing a research program within a field not known for its active research culture, and within an organisation with little direct experience of academic research, is no easy task - it will be a long process, an evolutionary process. However, important breakthroughs have already been made. Guided by Tim Sherratt, ASAP's Deputy Director, ASAP in 1996 prepared a series of applications to the Australian Research Council for funds. Realistically, with our lack of research credentials, our chances were limited; however, the preparation of the applications themselves encouraged us to focus on the questions we wished to pursue, and on the problems that needed to be addressed. This was an extremely useful process that has enabled ASAP to conceive of itself as a research organisation. The applications were:

  • Science Documentation Research Centre (for Australian Research Council Special Research Centre program);
  • Mapping Scientific Memory: understanding the role of recordkeeping in scientific practice (Australian Research Council Large Grants program);
  • Next Generation ASAP ADS: controlling the total records environment (Australian Research Council Collaborative Grants program);
  • ASAP Sydney Office (Australian Research Council Infrastructure Support program);
  • Speaking Through Time: historically mapping the recordkeeping practices of Australian scientists (Australian Research Council Small Grants program); and
  • Documenting Electronic Records: analysing functions within ASAP ADS (The University of Melbourne Collaborative Grants program).

The importance of issues highlighted by ASAP, and our considerable record of achievement, was recognised in the award of an Australian Research Council Collaborative Research Grant, in conjunction with an industry partner. To our knowledge this is the first such grant awarded for archival research. This grant will enable ASAP to further document and assess the capabilities of ASAP ADS.

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Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 23 January 1998
Prepared by: Elissa Tenkate