Presentation of the Leahy Award to David Giaretta

at the UNESCO Memory of the World Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

October 6, 2012


Presented by Kenneth Thibodeau, Chair of the Emmett Leahy Award Committee


The Emmett Leahy Award for 2012 was awarded to Dr. David Giaretta. The primary criterion for the Leahy award is impact. This year’s winner has had an impact on records and information management which is both fundamental from an intellectual perspective and worldwide from a practical perspective. David Giaretta is the Director of the Alliance for Permanent Access (APA). The Alliance is an organization devoted to developing a shared vision and framework for a sustainable organizational infrastructure for permanent access to scientific information. Leadership of a collaboration: that has been the signature of David’s career for many years. He has been a leader, in many cases the initiator, of several important collaborations in information management, including CASPAR (Cultural, Artistic and Scientific knowledge for Preservation, Access and Retrieval), PARSE.Insight (Permanent Access to the Records of Science in Europe), SCIDIP-ES (SCIence Data Infrastructure for Preservation – Earth Science), and the DCC (Digital Curation Centre).


Under his leadership, these collaborations have had several significant results. For example, CASPAR prototyped infrastructure components for digital preservation, developed toolkits for Representation Information, Authenticity, Digital Rights, etc. and performed accelerated lifetime tests of preservation components, validating the approach using data from science, cultural heritage and performing arts. The SCIDIP-ES collaboration is building on this work by moving the CASPAR prototypes into scalable, robust e-infrastructure components to support digital preservation of all types of digital objects. This technical effort is directly under Dr. Giaretta’s leadership.


 Undoubtedly, his greatest impact has been in the development of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model and related standards. He chaired the panel established by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems to develop the OAIS standard. While its roots are in the space science community, under Giaretta’s leadership, this effort was international and multidisciplinary, incorporating substantive inputs from the records management, archives, libraries, and other professions in the development of the model.


OAIS has not only become an ISO standard.  It has also provided a common conceptual framework and vocabulary for research and development efforts in many disciplines concerned with survival of digital information. It has been the foundation of digital preservation programs in archives, libraries and data centers around the world. It has also been the basis for the development of software products for digital preservation. The significance of the OAIS model is quite evident in the many follow-up activities it has spawned. These include the ISO standards for the producer-archive interface and for audit and certification of trusted repositories. Dr. Giaretta has been and is chair of the working group responsible for the last standard, and made substantive contributions to the former. Other developments spurred by the OAIS model include:

  • a collaboration between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. and Ghent University in Belgium to define access interfaces for OAIS implementations using the Open Archive Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and the NISO OpenURL Framework for Context-Sensitive Services (OpenURL Standard);
  • the development by Motion Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) of a standard for Preservation Description Information for multimedia; and
  •  a collaboration of several universities in the U.S. on a method for exchange of enriched Archival Information Packages between repositories implementing the standard.


In his work, David Giaretta has shown that not only is he a very adept leader of collaborations; he is a good collaborator, one who inevitably encourages and acknowledges the contributions of other individuals in projects he leads.