Records Management and E-discovery: Making Beautiful Music

Last Thursday Jason R. Baron, NARA’s Director of Litigation, gave a presentation entitled, “Three Suggested Improvements At The Nexus of E-Recordkeeping and E-Discovery”, at the E-Discovery, Records & Information Management Conference & Expo. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this presentation, but over the years I have heard Jason speak on this topic many times. It is a topic that he is very passionate about. He often cites the enormity of the challenge of managing all of the electronically stored information (ESI) that we create. All of his presentations that I have heard, however, seem to be optimistic that we will be able to meet this challenge. He often cites the importance of records management in addressing this challenge.

Last month Jason gave an interview on “Government’s Record-Keeping Challenges.” Here is a telling quote from that interview:

My bottom line: I want to believe the next generation of public servants will do right by the American people by managing and preserving the government’s born-digital records, and providing the means for continuing access to them, so as to ensure that the history of the 21st century is properly preserved.

Jason is not new to the fields of e-records management and e-discovery. He served as the Department of Justice’s lead counsel  in the very first lawsuit over White House e-mail in 1989 (the so-called “PROFS” case, Armstrong v. EOP). Since that time he has conducted research, taught classes, and given presentations around the world on related  topics.

As part of his research, he founded and served as a TREC Legal Track Coordinator for a number of years. The Text REtrieval Conference (TREC) workshop series has the following goals:

  • to encourage research in information retrieval based on large test collections;
  • to increase communication among industry, academia, and government by creating an open forum for the exchange of research ideas;
  • to speed the transfer of technology from research labs into commercial products by demonstrating substantial improvements in retrieval methodologies on real-world problems; and
  • to increase the availability of appropriate evaluation techniques for use by industry and academia, including development of new evaluation techniques more applicable to current systems.

The goal of the TREC Legal Track is to develop search technology that meets the needs of lawyers to engage in effective discovery in digital document collections. For more information on the TREC Legal Track and some of its findings take a look at a paper that Jason co-authored, “Some Lessons Learned To Date from the TREC Legal Track (2006-2009)”.  You can find it here. See also a recent guest blog Jason did describing his search for the Holy Grail of the perfect search technology here.

Why would NARA be interested in this type of research? In addition to responding to the discovery orders that NARA periodically receives, having tools that allow you to find relevant documents in large collections of electronic texts could be very useful for responding to Freedom of Information requests or helping a NARA researcher find documents relevant to their research.

BTW, Jason also “moonlights” as a creator of music videos. Be sure to check out e-Discovery: Did You Know?

6 thoughts on “Records Management and E-discovery: Making Beautiful Music

  1. This is a great write-up, Mark! Thanks also for the link to Jason’s fabulous video – reminds me of KenT’s famous animated PPTs: always informative, entertaining to watch!

  2. I want to get three 1940 New York City census records for my father Harry Deiter married to Beatrice Deiter, Grandfather Joel Deiter married to Fanny Deiter and grandmother Rebecca Berger married to Harry Berger. All resided in Brooklyn New York.
    Can you help me?
    Madeline Vernon

    1. Hi Madeline,

      The 1940 Census is scheduled to be released on April 2, 2012. At that time, you will be able to access the 1940 Census online, and search by state, county, city, township or minor civil division, and enumeration data.

      More information about the release of the 1940 Census can be found here:

      As well as in our “1940 Census” category on NARAtions:

      Best of luck with your research!

  3. Thank you. I would like to find out any information I can on Andrew Spiers, born in Scotland. Probably came here in late 1800’s or early 1900. Again, thank you.

    1. Hi Susan,
      The best way to start your research is to contact the reference archivists at They can give you guidance on the types of files to search, the types of information you may be able to locate, and next steps. When you write, be sure to include as much information as you can about Andrew Spiers (such as any pertinent dates, military service, names of spouses or children, or any other concrete facts you may have.) The more you have to start with, the better the reference archivists will be able to help you.

      Best of luck with your research!

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