Making it Stick: Records Management Training Approaches

Several weeks ago the University Archivist and I conducted our bi-annual University Archives and Records Management training session, part of our Office of Human Resources Faculty and Staff Development Program. This got me thinking about the various strategies, methods, and approaches records managers employ when conducting training and outreach. I reached out to my peers via SAA’s records management and ARMA’s EDU listservs to get a sense of just that, and hopefully learn some new tips and tricks!

Training Image_Medium

The following is an overview of responses through which themes of visibility, focus, repetition, and trust were reoccurring. Thanks to Peggy Tran-Le, Cheryl Badel-Stevens, Peg Eusch, Chris Wydman, George Despres, and Hillary Gatlin for sharing their insights.

Visibility is vital. While records professionals may want to nerd out on recordkeeping topics, our users may not be as pro-active. So how to improve participation in records management training (RM)? Make it hard to miss. Incorporate records management training classes with new employee orientations, or pair it with your organization’s annually required training on information security or compliance. Reserve a slot in professional development services programs, or space at annual events or expos. In true lifecycle fashion, don’t forget to consider departing employee check-ins and exit interviews as points at which to engage users concerning record transitions and purging.

Focus your approach. Once you’ve captured some attention it’s time to drop some knowledge. Develop training consultations around specific recordkeeping topics such as developing effective filing systems, understanding retention schedules, shared drive management, or email retention. Create job aids like RM cheat sheets, quick reference guides, PowerPoint modules, or a Libguide (which tracks usage stats). Focus on particular needs that users can implement directly in their daily work.

Virtual potential. Many records managers may work in decentralized organizations, with distributed offices or campuses. Providing a virtual RM training presence boosts program visibility and increases engagement opportunities. Rather than reinventing the wheel, co-opt the service of an internal learning management system, like Blackboard, or a platform like YouTube to create training videos. These can range from voice-over PowerPoint presentations and subject specific Skype sessions, to casual discussions describing what RM is all about and off-the-cuff Google hangouts.

Repetition rules. Effective and consistent engagement comes from strong relationships, and that starts at the employee level. Target specific user groups like financial or human resource administrators, IT facilitators, or committees such as an Administrative Data Users Committee. Get more granular by conducting one-on-one consults where applicable. Develop repetitive outreach through quarterly newsletters or monthly emails. Consistency in RM training opportunities and resources leads to buy-in, which leads to trust, the keystone of any relationship.

Have fun with it! The following are some fun outreach ideas you can employ in your organization to build visibility and develop relationships:

  •          Post weekly RM tips on your organization’s media platform of choice.
  •          Monthly quizzes with prizes. Chocolate is effective!
  •          “RM Nuggets”, or short pointed articles, in other department’s newsletters.
  •          RM Literature distributed to departments annually to cover employee turnover, or included in new employee and departing employee packets.
  •          Web tutorials and quizzes reporting on completion by department to up gamesmanship.
  •          At trainings, encourage attendees to introduce themselves and what they hope  to learn. Attempt to address those concerns directly, or use them to craft a new training!
  •          Share RM in the news. Make it real and tangible.
  •          RM on Demand; Quick, topic-specific, ready-to-be shared modules.

Legislating the Creation, Access, and (not) the Retention of Officer-Worn Body Camera Records

As more and more law enforcement incidents are captured on police officer-worn body and dashboard cameras, states are obliged to consider legislation that governs the creation, retention, and public access of such records. Regulations, where they do exist, often lack uniformity between municipalities, cities, and states, as illustrated by the Brennan Center’s guide detailing police body camera retention policies across the U.S.

Awareness of such regulations, and navigating their inconsistencies, is an important part of how records managers execute their positions. What happens when retention and preservation provisions are absent from legislation governing the creation and access of such police records?

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is currently considering a bill that would legislate law enforcement use of body-worn cameras, and more importantly, public access to such records. Approved by the PA Senate (currently pending a vote in the House) on October 19, Senate Bill 976 – an expansion of Pennsylvania’s current Wiretap Act – would essentially do two things.

First, the bill would increase areas where police officers are permitted to use body cameras, such as within private homes and in public spaces. Under the bill, officers would not be required to directly inform individuals they were potentially being recorded. Second, the bill would place a considerable burden on those attempting to access these records.

SB976 stipulates that within 14 days of the incident a written request be submitted that includes, in “particularity”, the date, time, and location of the incident. Each individual in the footage must be identified by the requester, or at the least, described. If a request is denied – grounds for dismissal include lack of “sufficient particularity” –  an appeal must be filed in a PA Court of Common Pleas within 14 days of the denial, a $250 filing fee will be applied, the written request must be resubmitted, and finally “if the requested audio or video recording was made inside a structure, [identify] the owner and occupant of the structure.”

The amendment seems to contradict itself in that it specifically states that “an audio or video recording by a law enforcement officer shall not be subject to production under the act of February 14, 2008 (p.l.6, no.3), known as the right-to-know law” (Section 6702) while stipulating that that a court may grant release if a “preponderance of evidence” are met, including that “disclosure of the audio or video recording would be permissible under the right-to-know law.”

Pennsylvania civics and policy aside, you may be asking where records management fits into all this? While legislating officer-worn body camera use and record access, the bill does nothing to address appropriate retention periods and preservation methods law enforcement entities could be required to employ uniformly across the state. The bill actually removes language concerning retention periods of certain recorded communications. Primary sponsor Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, has acknowledged that provisions governing how long footage and accompanying data must be retained before it’s erased, as well as when a body-worn camera is turned on or off, are not considered in the bill.

The intent of the SB976 may be noble (“body cameras have a civilizing effect on both the officers and members of the public”), and there is no doubt that balancing public transparency, individual privacy, and the integrity of police investigations presents public policy and records management challenges alike. However, constraints to access and record keeping oversights may only serve to distance the citizenry from law enforcement and public officials, rather than fostering the transparency and trust the bills seeks to instill.

As states continue to consider legislation governing the use and access of police officer-worn body and dashboard camera records, records mangers should be engaged in this dialogue. If creation and access to such record can be legislated to serve the public interest, so too can record keeping policies. Records mangers must continue to be advocates for clear and consistent retention and preservation provisions that benefit the public good, in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Research data management at Harvard University: Creation and use of a LibGuide and new outreach efforts

This post is the third in a series on research data management presented by the Records Management Roundtable. 

Posted on behalf of Sarah Demb, Senior Records Manager/Archivist at Harvard University Archives.

Harvard Library (HL) works collaboratively with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Harvard University Information Security (HUIT), the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Research Administration Services and other offices to provide assistance with data management, curation, sharing and archiving, as well as to support compliance with HU policies for data retention and security. In Spring of 2015, HL collaborated with Purdue University to host a two-day long internal symposium on managing research data across the University. At Harvard, we were interested in whether Purdue’s experiences could be scaled up to a university of our size and administrative complexity. A variety of speakers presented on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the topic. One of the largest discussions was on the most effective ways to communicate data management principles and best practices to stakeholders, including our many research data creators within the campus community.

As a first step, we agreed to customize the California Digital Library’s (CDL) DMPTool (data management plan tool), to which Harvard subscribes, but at that point had only been used in its generic form. Harvard Library is a point of contact for Harvard-affiliated researchers University-wide seeking data management support and services. A Working Group (WG) under HL’s Stewardship Standing Committee was convened in Fall 2015 to roll-out a customized version of DMPTool by early 2016.  It was comprised of members from central administrative and information technology offices, Harvard Library, and Harvard’s data repository, Dataverse, which is hosted by our Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

The WG analyzed the best ways to customize the tool, and due to some of the constraints inherent in the CDL platform, decided the best way of supporting the tool and to better communicate the benefits of research data management was to link the customized tool to a topical LibGuide.  LibGuides are a popular web publishing platform used by many libraries to communicate with users on specific topics. They lend themselves to incorporating embedded links to resources and are good quick references to what might be complex subjects. At Harvard, they are hosted on the Library’s main web portal and are available to the entire community as well as to the public.  The WG designed a LibGuide on data management, which was approved and released in early 2016.

The LibGuide points to a variety of resources and contains the basic principles behind managing research data. Although it is hosted by HL, it describes the entire context in which data management occurs across the University and points to collaborations and contacts in the relevant offices, including:

The LibGuide acts as a central portal to a variety of different resources on research data management. It also:

  • explains the concept and benefits of data management and data management plans
  • contains guidance on how to use DPMTool
  • points to relevant University-wide policy and guidance on research records and data, including our General Records Schedule
  • offers tips on data file naming conventions and formats for long-term preservation; available data repositories and proper data citation.

To ensure that DMP Tool users have sufficient advice on how to use the new customized tool, a team made up from across the campus libraries, Dataverse, and RMS is currently providing support via a dedicated email address, which will be evaluated for effectiveness after operating for a year. We are looking forward to receiving feedback on the LibGuide, the customized tool, and support group from our research data community.

Sarah Demb

Senior Records Manager/Archivist

Harvard University Archives

Retention schedules and research records: Necessary challenges

This post is the second in a series on research data management presented by the Records Management Roundtable. 

Submitted on behalf of Anita Vannucci, Records Manager at Emory University.

In the fall of 2015, I began a review and update to the research data portion of my institution’s retention schedule. The catalyst for this work came from a campus task force looking at the evolution of research data at academic institutions and anticipating increased interest following the February 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy memo. One recommendation the task force made was to revise the retention schedule.

The 30 series retention schedule was last updated in 2008, long before my arrival. Several challenges became clear when I started my review. Some series were based on federal statutes that had been repealed, or cited code that had no clear connection to the series. Some “series” were actually record types. For clinical records, a records series existed for each stage of research (Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, Phase IV) rather than a single series based on the point the research closed.

I began researching federal and state code, best practices, and the policies of peer institutions. Federal guidance varied from agency to agency, so many of the institutions I surveyed relied on contract language, rather than a centralized retention schedule, to set requirements.

Another challenge was identifying a focus group of subject matter experts. In fiscal year 2015, my institution received 2,923 sponsored awards. While I spoke to people doing research and managing the information created from it, it was impossible to get a representative sample, so I chose to talk to their central monitoring department, the Office of Compliance. It was Compliance who helped me solidify the information I’d gathered into concrete series based on four types of research: behavioral, treatment, FDA-regulated, and non-FDA regulated. Unfortunately, the retention requirements aren’t as straight forward as that finite group of series would lead you to believe.

I began meeting monthly with the deputy chief compliance officer, working through my draft of the schedule. He provided feedback and insight along the way, while I learned about everything from the differences between dangerous drugs and controlled substances to retention requirements around sealed versus non-sealed sponsored study contracts. In the process, we tackled two major challenges:

  1. Can we create big buckets? Risk analysis is a big part of creating a big bucket schedule. We discussed when keeping information longer than required through a simplified schedule posed a greater risk than the value gained by making the schedule easier to use. For example, alleged misconduct investigations involving federally-funded research must be retained for seven years. There’s more flexibility around privately funded research, so in instances where a complaint is determined to be unfounded, there was a desire to dispose of the information sooner. By keeping misconduct investigations of privately-funded research according to the federally-funded requirements, we’d lose the ability to destroy unfounded complaints and retain spurious or potentially libelous information longer than necessary. We decided to settle this issue on a series-by-series basis after considering the volume of records involved and potential risk for each series.
  2. How simple can we make the retention requirement? Retention periods set out in code are rarely simple. (Take a look at 21 CFR 58.195 if you don’t believe me.) We discussed the value of using those retention periods word-for-word versus simplifying and risking the loss of nuances. In this instance, making the schedule user friendly won out. We decided to simplify the language but also link to each citation.

The schedule isn’t quite done yet, but it will be ready to go in time for the launch of a new fiscal year and a new round of awards.

Anita Vannucci

Records Manager

Emory University

Research data management and University records management: Collaborative crossroads

This post is the first in a series on research data management presented by the Records Management Roundtable. 

One service area of the University Library System (ULS) I was not initially expecting to become involved with when I became University Records Manager at the University of Pittsburgh was research data management (RDM). However, my participation with a ULS specialist track focused on RDM quickly made it clear that this domain is one that records managers throughout higher education should be tuned into.

Research records and data output from various projects, studies, and trials are both created and managed by departments and disciplines across Universities in huge quantities. While RDM may conjure visions of statistical tables, sprawling spreadsheets, and raw computational models, research output is more often a hybrid of record types. Lab notebooks, clinical information and waivers, computational displays, large data sets, XML exports, artifacts, audio-visual materials, proprietary software output, field notes, and grant and administrative materials vary by discipline and format. Thus, records management is a clear fit with other RDM pursuits.

The ULS “tracks”, or groups of specialists, are charged with specific areas of responsibility, such as instructional design or scholarly communications. The ULS’s RDM track evolved out of a working group and over the past year began forming a three-tiered service delivery model for providing RDM resources and outreach to the University research community. Consisting of digital scholarship specialists, a metadata librarian, an archivist, several liaison librarians, and myself, the RDM track’s goal is to provide guidance, resources, and instruction to researchers on how to best manage their records and data throughout the research lifecycle.

The RDM track has tailored resources surrounding some of the following topics: how to create a data management plan using DMPTool; understanding funder mandates; describing your data; choosing sustainable formats; locating data and disciplinary repositories; and open data sharing. Discussion is often framed by communicating the importance of RDM in terms of time, resources, funding agency and publisher mandates, and research integrity.

Service and outreach are conveyed through resources including a Libguide, website, and FAQS which outline service topics; consultations with faculty to better understand their needs; training sessions for ULS staff, academic departments, and research groups; advertisements throughout campus to promote said services; and a series of instructional modules focused on a specific facet of RDM, such as research records and data retention, freely available on the ULS RDM Libguide.

My involvement with the RDM track has raised important questions: where do research records and data management fit into a higher education RM program? Certainly records management principles and policies apply to research records and data. Although somewhat dated, Pitt maintains a Guidelines for Managing Research Data policy on record, in addition to general and financial retention schedules that loosely address such record types.  Furthermore, as a “state-related” University, most research conducted at the University is not subject to state or federal open record laws.

The question of just how effective records management outreach to the research community can be arises. Departments, research groups, and principle investigators often keep their research output close to the chest (read: attribution), storing it on personal websites, databases, external hard drives, or in departmental or personal storage. Management issues, migration and preservation challenges, and open data conundrums crop up. Additionally, the adoption of enterprise software like Electronic Lab Notebooks only increase issues of ownership, management, and preservation of University research content.

Researchers are advised to consider records management at all stages of the research lifecycle:

  • What types and formats of research records will be created?
  • How, and who, will manage those records throughout the course of the project?
  • Is electronic research output being generated in proprietary systems?
  • How can this data be migrated?
  • What are the applicable research records retention periods?
  • What University records retention policies should I be aware of?
  • Where will I deposit research records following the end of my study?
  • How will I preserve these records over time?

The RDM track’s mission provides the perfect platform for spotlighting how records management practices can and should positively support research data management in the research community at Pitt. As the RDM track moves forward with faculty consultations this summer, I’m interested to learn the ways (and formats) in which researchers are creating records, where they are being stored, what oversight and policies are governing their work, and how they perceive University records management affecting their workflows.

I’ll be working to determine the volume of research records – along with type and importance –that departments and research teams store at the University’s off-site storage vendor, examining how and when content should be exported from ELN’s and deposited or stored elsewhere, and potentially attempting to embed myself with a research group for a term to understand their methods, workflows, and records management considerations.

Records managers in higher education should definitely be engaged with the research community at their respective institutions. However, with limited time and resources (there is one of me!), it’s often difficult to consistently and successfully engage stakeholders. Finding collaborative commonalities with other service providers and information professionals, like the RDM track, is one way to make a records management program more visible to the research community.

Alex J. Toner

University Records Manager

University of Pittsburgh

Research Data Managment: A Scheduled Series

Research records and data output are proliferating at institutions of higher education around the world. What implications does this have for records management programs? How can university records managers and archivists position themselves as effective resources for the research community? What about the retention of and access to the research record themselves?

The Records Management Roundtable hopes to foster a dialogue on the topic through a series of research data management themed posts. Over the next four weeks The Schedule will feature posts describing collaborative efforts to address research data management, resources and outreach initiatives, incorporating research records into a retention schedule, and the question of faculty research as a public record.

We encourage comments on the posts as well as further discussion at the upcoming SAA annual conference in Atlanta. Finally, if you’re involved in research data management at your institution, we would love to hear about it on The Schedule!

– Records Management Roundtable