Magazine article Records Management Quarterly

A System for the Storage and Management of Research and Development Records

Magazine article Records Management Quarterly

A System for the Storage and Management of Research and Development Records

Article excerpt

A System for the Storage and Management of Research and Development Records

Research organizations are faced with a growing demand for records management systems that ensure information generated by research projects is efficiently distributed and safely stored. Such a system has been developed within the Geological and Environmental Science Division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to support research in the Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program. This ongoing program has involved multidisciplinary scientific research and development over a period of about ten years, and has resulted in the production of a large volume of information in a wide variety of media formats, including reports, drawings, computer records, film, and videotape. To assemble and protect this valuable information, a microfilm-based system has been developed and linked to a company-wide database to facilitate indexing and retrieval of information. The system is designed to control and store records produced by a newly introduced quality assurance program, (1) in compliance with regulatory requirements of the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada.(2)


The development of a divisional records management system began in early 1988. At that time, a substantial backlog of technical reports and data had accumulated from over ten years of research in the waste management program. The first problem was to estimate the total volume and the types of information that were distributed throughout the division, so that the Records Management System (RMS) could be effectively designed.

A formal survey was conducted of all managers in the division, who number about 24, and represent about 110 scientists, engineers and technical staff. Managers were surveyed to estimate the number of paper records, computer printouts, computer magnetic tapes, drawings, and maps under their control.

The survey was completed in a few weeks and showed that the division had more records in a greater variety of formats than had been expected. Approximately 1.3 million paper records in 8.5 by 11 inch format and 0.3 million paper records in 11 by 14 inch format were reported to be stored in about 132 four-drawer filing cabinets. At least 1700 sheets of maps and drawings, and 300 reels of computer magtape were reported, along with 800 floppy diskettes, 20 drawers of photographs, and a number of cabinets full of photomosaics, strip-chart recordings, and video cassette tapes. The proportion of unduplicated material in the total information base was estimated at between 50 and 70 per cent of the total material.

The survey data provided a preliminary estimate of the annual rate of production of information in the division: viz. about 100,000 pages in 8.5 by 11 inch format, 36,000 pages in 11 by 14 inch format, 200 maps and drawings, 200 floppy diskettes, and 60 computer tapes.

Scoping investigations also indicated that a wide range of filing systems were in use throughout the company. In addition to the files kept by individual researchers, at least ten independent support groups were identified who were maintaining files to collect information generated by the division. This situation brought into focus the need for a central management system that could both store and make clearly visible the available information.

Hardware and Software

The selection of the best hardware and software system to meet our needs was perhaps the most difficult aspect of the RMS design, since many technical options and trade-offs were possible. A survey was conducted of commercially available hardware and software systems for indexing, storing, and retrieving information. After evaluating the costs and technical specifications of a wide variety of systems, two vendors of turn-key products were selected for detailed evaluation. These systems used microfilm or optical disk technologies, and both offered computer database management software for automated indexing, searching, and retrieving of records. …

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