Risk, uncertainty and trust

Digital repository at The National Archives

Digital repository at The National Archives

Records and data are being managed, edited and transferred in new ways. We must uncover new technologies and tools to manage the risks of recordkeeping and guarantee the authenticity of the digital record.

Potential research questions

  • How can we effectively deal with ambiguity and uncertainty in and around our collections?
  • What new systems and technologies might help us meet the challenges of safeguarding digital records and data in ways that engender public trust?
  • How can we develop statistical models that help us understand and quantify the likely impact of preservation actions and invest resources to greatest effect?
  • How might we reimagine the economic model for archiving across the archive sector, which is underpinned by the notion of trust as an asset?
  • How might an analysis through the lens of risk help different types of archive to manage their rights and responsibilities around the record?

Core research challenges

Risk modelling for physical and digital archives

We would like to examine how predictive risk modelling can inform the decisions we take on the preservation of our collections. Harnessing both conservation and digital expertise, we would like to develop a model that balances the cost and benefits of different preservation options. In addition to this, risk modelling has the potential to help us decide whether a record can be made accessible based on legal, social and ethical constraints. 

Making links across uncertain data

We aim to create new routes of navigation through our collections by linking different records based on the probability that their content is related. Due to the ambiguities that are found within our historic data, we must develop probabilistic methods that mean we can provide a user with related records based on an expression of confidence rather than a definite truth.

Managing uncertain record descriptions

We seek to explore ways in which we can automatically create descriptions for our digital records, rather than manually write the metadata. This raises new questions on how we can assure the quality of automatically generated descriptions, and help our users engage with and interrogate uncertain descriptions.

Maintaining public trust in the record

We would like to understand how technologies such as distributed ledger can be used to guarantee that the born-digital records we archive today are the same ones we release to the public in the future. As technology advances and formats become obsolete, the original record will not be the same as the one presented to the user. However, we need to guarantee that whilst the format of the record has changed, its contents have not been tampered with.

Associated projects

Traces through Time
ARCHANGEL – Trusted archives of digital public records

Contact us

Contact us if you would like to work with us to explore any of the research questions or challenges above.