The public has the right of access to archives of public bodies. Openness of archives is not only an issue related to interests of historians or specialists, but an issue of access to information, which in itself is a human right. The OSA Methodology is envisioned to be universal with the goal of assessing the standards of access to archives, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the legal frameworks and their enforcement firstly in post-soviet space and then around the globe.
Structure and Logic
The Methodology is composed of 88 indicators, each of which granted different weight and index of social importance.
The Methodology covers all the major components of openness of state archives: from the legislative framework, to access to archival files in the reading room and via online sources, and freedom of access to archival files/records and relevant databases (online sources, catalogues, inventories, etc.).
The selection of indicators for the Methodology was largely based on the principles of access to archives adopted by the International Council on Archives (ICA) that elaborated the following general principles:
· Archives and archivists should promote the widest possible access to archival materials and provide an impartial service to all users.
· Archives and archivists should respect both access to information and privacy, and act within the boundaries of relevant legislation.
· Institutions holding the archival fonds ensure that restrictions on access are clear and of stated duration, are based on pertinent legislation, acknowledge the right of privacy, and respect the rights of owners of private materials.
· The access rules apply equally to all individuals without discrimination. When a closed file is reviewed and access to it is granted to a member of the general public, the file is available to all other members of the public under the same terms and conditions.
Various best practices were also reviewed: the analytical report „Open Access to KGB Archives: Ukraine’s Experience for Eastern Partnership Countries” („Открытый доступ к архивам КГБ: Украинский опыт для стран восточного партнерства“), a guide-book „Right for the Truth“ („Право на правду“), as well as other best practices and adopted documents. We also analyzed all the archival and other relevant laws in each country to be evaluated.
The documents and standards mentioned above do not contain methodologies or indicators for evaluating archives; this we elaborated through cooperation with our partners. The resulting methodology is unique by its essence. All the indicators have been properly referenced.
During the indicator selection and elaboration process, an effort was made to ensure that our Methodology could be used for all state archives in the target states. The Methodology and its indicators were elaborated with the active participation of the organizations and independent experts, who have the most expertise and experience in given area.
The indicators are divided into five groups (benchmark indicators) that represent the key characteristics of a well-functioning system of open access to the state archives in post-soviet countries. These groups are:
1. Homogeneity of the legislative framework:
1.1 General archival legislation;
1.2 Other legislation referring to FOI and archives;
1.3 Archive services;
2. Website: Archive websites and distant and online services;
3. Reading room: Services and procedures for the researchers physically working in the archives.
Access to archives varies significantly by country. The OSA Methodology is intended to be applicable on a global scale, meaning that the indicators cannot be too specific and cannot cover all the possible variations and exceptions.
Indicators included in the OSA Methodology are granted different weight and provided by index of social importance, which is measured by one of the four qualitative indicators (4, 3, 2 or 1). Such indexes will show the importance of the indicator and its influence on the openness of archives.
Each indicator can be evaluated by the interim score from 0 to 1 points, depending on the completeness of the answer, or the indicator cannot be applied to the given archive:
1. Gives a complete answer to the question - maximum 1 point.
2. Gives a high quality answer to the question - 0.75
3. Gives a medium quality answer to the question - 0.5
4. Gives a low quality answer to the question - 0.25
5. Does not answer the question – 0
6. The indicator cannot be applied to the given archive – (-)
The final score of each indicator is calculated by multiplying its interim score by its social importance index.
For instance, if the indicator’s social importance index is 4 and its interim score is 0.75 points, the final score of the indicator will be 3.
With a total of 88 indicators, openness of a state archive is rated on the scale of 0 to 257. The points will be converted to percentages for easier understanding and visualization.
At the same time, we are keeping in mind that not all the indicators can be applied to each state archive we are assessing. For example, if we are assessing archives which do not contain any fonds or files on repressive state institutions, we will not deduct points for non-relevant indicators. In such cases, the final result and the percentage will be calculated based only on relevant indicators.
Each scoring component is evaluated separately.
This scoring system and the structure of the methodology allows us to represent the results in two ways:
Visualizing the results of the assessment is crucial to the goal of the methodology. For this purpose, the overall points received by each country shall be shown graphically using the scale of 0-100%, divided into 4 quarters of a specific color:
· Low compliance with the OSA Standards – 0% to 25% (red)
· Average compliance with the OSA Standards – 26% to 50% (orange)
· Good compliance with the OSA Standards – 51% to 75% (yellow)
· Excellent compliance with the OSA Standards – 76% to 100% (green)
Visualizations will also include spider graphs depicting the countries’ results by benchmark indicators and multi-colored bar graphs for comparing the countries’ results in defined categories.
Download Methodology for Evaluation of Openness of State Archives (OSA)