DOE Openness: Human Radiation Experiments: What's New
Guides to Records Series of the Department of Energy
As part of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project, History Associates Incorporated (HAI) prepared these guides to epidemiologic and health related records at a number of DOE sites. This introduction describes the Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project and HAI's role in the project. It provides a brief history of the DOE and explains HAI's methodology in developing search criteria, conducting inventories of active and inactive records, and verifying site inventories. Furthermore, it furnishes information on the production of the guides themselves, their contents and review.
BackgroundEpidemiologic Records Inventory Project
The Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project is indicative of DOE Secretary Hazel O'Leary's efforts to support openness initiatives in the areas of environment, safety, and health. In view of the importance of various administrative, organizational, and operational records to epidemiologic and health-related studies, a moratorium on the destruction of such records has been in effect since 1989.
In May 1992, DOE's Office of Epidemiology and Health Surveillance (EH-42), now the Office of Epidemiologic Studies (EH-62), directed each DOE and DOE contractor site to conduct an inventory of all records useful for worker or community health-related studies. EH-62, acting within its role of coordinator of DOE's health-related activities, provided each site with guidelines that defined epidemiologic records, provided instructions for describing and inventorying records series, outlined the sites' role in inventorying epidemiologic records, and discussed the relationship of the epidemiologic inventory to DOE's comprehensive records inventory effort concurrently underway.Role of HAI
In August of 1993, DOE selected HAI as its support services contractor for the Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project. HAI, a professional records management, archives, and historical research services firm incorporated in 1981, had previously provided records management, historical research, and technical support for a number of DOE projects. The work of DOE and HAI represents an ongoing endeavor to make epidemiologic and health-related records more accessible to researchers, and to address the complexities encountered by archivists and records mangers in handling modern, organizational records. Two of the tasks, verification of records inventories performed by DOE sites and HAI's collection of original inventory data, have led to the creation of a number of extensive guides for records that are potentially useful to investigators performing worker or community health-related studies.
Based on its inventory work, HAI has produced guides to selected groups of records at the following DOE sites: Hanford site in Washington, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado, and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.
Records inventoried at Hanford, Los Alamos, and ORISE, pertain only to the occupational epidemiologic studies that those contractors performed for DOE as part of its Worker Health and Mortality Studies. At Oak Ridge, the focus was on records relating to chemical processing operations that involved the use or release of radioactive lanthanum (RaLa), iodine 131 and 133, and cesium as well as a collection of classified files collected in 1984 by the Mercury Task Force Team during their examination of mercury use and operation at Oak Ridge. These topics were selected because of their research value and pertinence to an offsite historical dose assessment being conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).
At Rocky Flats, the inventory effort targeted records series pertaining to the 1957 fire at Rocky Flats and records relating to industrial hygiene, radiological and occupational health, waste management, construction, and production. These areas were chosen because of their potential importance to researchers currently conducting worker and community health studies at Rocky Flats (RF), and the resulting guides describe approximately 90 percent of the epidemiologic and health-related records of RF. The work at the Savannah River Site focuses on radiological and health protection records.History of the DOE
The DOE is responsible for developing and administering national energy programs and policies. Authorized by Congress in 1977, the department's predecessor agencies and functions date back to 1942, with the establishment of the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The MED spearheaded the development and manufacture of the first atomic weapons during World War II. In 1946, Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act, which reorganized the MED into the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Although the primary purpose of the AEC was to develop and manage the nation's expanding nuclear weapons production complex, the organization also reflected the nation's interest in developing broader commercial applications of atomic energy.(1)
For nearly three decades, the AEC directed the nation's nuclear program, from the development of nuclear weapons to the production of nuclear power. In 1974, Congress passed the Energy Reorganization Act, which split the AEC into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). ERDA assumed responsibility for nuclear research and development and oversight of the nuclear weapons program, while the NRC licensed and regulated the industrial and commercial use of radionuclides and nuclear power. ERDA also took charge of the energy research and development programs of other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Mines, National Science Foundation, and the Interior Department's Office of Coal Research. The creation of ERDA represented the Nixon Administration's interest in establishing a centrally directed national energy policy. Events such as the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the 1973-1974 price increases instituted by OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] demonstrated the need to identify immediate energy needs and priorities and establish long range goals as a way to lessen the nation's dependency on foreign sources of energy.(2)
A shortage of natural gas during the winter of 1976-1977 further exposed the nation's vulnerability as an energy consumer. In response to the crisis, the Carter Administration urged Congress to reorganize ERDA and establish a cabinet-level organization to direct national energy policy. In August 1977, President Carter signed legislation creating DOE. During the late 1980s, as Cold War tensions eased, DOE restructured its priorities around nuclear waste management, environmental restoration, conservation, and the development of new energy sources.(3)
The records series described in these guides pertain to both active and inactive DOE and contractor records located in various onsite and offsite repositories and offices. Documents in a number of records series are classified at the level of Secret/Restricted Data (S/RD) and, therefore, require a DOE "Q" clearance for review. Moreover, either a DOE "L" or "Q" clearance is required to enter security-controlled areas in which many of the records are stored at the site. Others, although unclassified, contain personal identifying information about DOE and contractor employees and visitors and are protected by DOE Privacy Act measures. In addition, other constraints may also apply to the review of certain records at the various repositories. Researchers should consult each repository for specific guidance.
Upon DOE's selection of a site and the categories of the records to be inventoried, the HAI team prepares for each site project by researching that site's history and function. Team members review copies of organizational charts, mission statements, and telephone directories to track permutations in the site's organizational structure and mission over time. Knowledge gained during this initial research phase assists the team in formulating decisions and actions for the duration of the site project.
HAI staff often create research tools (e.g., chronologies, site or building histories, interview transcripts, etc.) in preparation for the site visit. These secondary resources are necessary when historical information pertaining to a site must be culled from diverse sources, for example, from oral interviews and/or different historical collections. HAI targets organizational units and subject areas that team members highlight for their research.The Planning Trip
HAI staff travel to the site and meet with representatives of EH-62 and site personnel, including records managers, program staff, and security personnel to discuss the project. State health authorities, representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services, and other interested stakeholders are also invited to participate in these meetings and often play a role in determining the scope of the project. The role of the HAI team during the planning trip is to use its records management expertise and knowledge of DOE records to assist EH-62 and stakeholders in further defining the parameters of the site project.
More importantly, the HAI planning team regards the site trip as an opportunity to gather additional background information and meet with site records managers to discuss access and classification procedures. HAI receives an overview of the site's records management practices, inspects the records holding areas, reviews selected records, and tours site grounds. Copies of the site's active and inactive records inventory worksheets are analyzed and records are selected for future review. HAI also meets with the site medical staff to establish protocols for reviewing medical records with respect to confidentiality and privacy constraints.The Site Report or Plan
Following the site trip, HAI prepares a plan that synthesizes the information, observations, and decisions derived from the planning trip. As part of the plan, HAI assesses the status of the site's epidemiologic records inventory, the current status of site recordkeeping practices, known and probable locations of pertinent records, access or protocol issues pertaining to the site and its records, and any other circumstances that may affect an onsite records project. The plan also includes a statement of the work to be performed and an estimate of the time, personnel, and other resources needed. It is distributed to DOE, site personnel, and stakeholders for comment and approval.
The Selection Criteria
Once the focus of a site project is established, the HAI team works towards more exactly defining potentially relevant records. To do so, the team prepares a statement of records selection criteria. The selection criteria may simply target all, or a percentage of, records in a single collection or office. For more complex projects, however, the selection criteria must be systematically detailed. In such instances, they describe the site project's primary focus and related subject areas; specify whether the HAI team will review active and/or inactive records; list the organizational units that created or have custody of pertinent records; and indicate record types (e.g., administrative, financial, personnel, quality assurance) to be included or excluded from the records search. Usually, a list of subject terms also is created for use in literature and database searches.
At the same time, HAI team members collect the necessary informational resources to determine where valuable records are located. If active records are to be reviewed, the team contacts site records management personnel for copies of their active records inventory or, if the inventory is not complete, copies of their inventory worksheets. The team may request only the portion of the inventory (or only those inventory worksheets) pertaining to organizational units with pertinent records. To target inactive records, the team arranges for access to logs or receipts that document the transfer of records from offices to records storage facilities (e.g., onsite records holding areas, one or more Federal Records Centers, DOE-Headquarters Records Center). For records of permanent historical value, the team requests copies of inventories, catalogs, annotated series lists, and other finding aids from appropriate archival agencies (e.g., National Archives and Records Administration, DOE-Headquarters History Division, academic collections). The HAI team then applies the selection criteria to the different finding aids collected and creates a list of records that will be reviewed for the project.
Many records storage facilities and repositories maintain automated finding aids to their records. In such instances, HAI arranges with site records management personnel for a database search, using the list of subject terms included in the written selection criteria, to acquire a computer-generated report of relevant records listed in the database.
The HAI team also contacts site records management staff to inquire about the existence of electronic records, because records stored in electronic format are frequently not included in site inventories. If records exist in electronic media, HAI requests copies of system manuals, user guides, and other documentation pertaining to database systems and their individual files. If individual electronic files are to be inventoried, the team arranges for access to directory or file printouts. Team members then apply the same search strategies to electronic file documentation as they do to finding aids for textual records. In such instances, they may rely on the knowledge and expertise of site records management personnel, computer support staff, and records custodians to select relevant files for review.
Prior to the inventory trip team members review the unique characteristics of epidemiologic records and the information needs of epidemiologists and other health researchers. The team uses inventory forms developed by HAI to collect data pertaining to textual records. For electronic files or database systems, they use inventory forms specifically created to accommodate records in electronic media. In addition, they follow a list of questions tailored to the site for use during interviews with records custodians.
Quality assurance measures include checking a sampling of completed forms against the reviewed records to make sure that accurate, comprehensive information has been captured. The size and frequency of the sampling are determined by several factors such as the importance, complexity, and condition of the records. For example, inventory forms pertaining to the records of a facility director or to disorganized records with multiple subseries require more frequent checking. Inventory forms that have inconsistencies or gaps in the records series descriptions are more frequently checked. When comparing the forms against the records, additional or corrected information is noted directly on the inventory forms.
All of the completed inventory forms are reviewed to ensure that HAI staff members are maintaining the highest professional standards for inventorying and describing records. In particular, the reviewers make sure that the inventory specialists have provided all relevant data and written clear, precise, and complete series descriptions.
Records Inventory Verification
The Records Inventory Verification Plan
When requested to verify an existing site inventory, an HAI team develops a detailed site verification plan that analyzes the site inventory for inconsistencies, targets certain areas where additional information is needed, and identifies the best method to collect that information. To verify descriptions for large, homogeneous records series, the team adopts sampling techniques, which are noted in the verification plan.Supporting Documentation
Team members create inventory summary lists for each site. This list provides the locations, volumes, and types of records to be verified as well as the respective records custodians' names and telephone numbers. HAI team members use the summary list to schedule appointments with records custodians and to indicate when targeted records have been verified. The inventory summary list also is used to highlight the records which are likely to require more extensive quality assurance measures.
HAI Records Guides
HAI's guides are consistent with professional archival standards for determining and describing records series. The HAI teams use raw inventory data collected during the site visit and arranges the information according to records series. The series descriptions are incorporated into one or more records guides, which have a format similar to archival finding aids. If applicable, the guide also includes active records data that HAI team members have verified, augmented, or corrected. HAI staff involved in producing records guides strive for editorial consistency both within a guide and between guides prepared for different sites and projects. All HAI guides have the same fundamental structure. They contain a table of contents, a list of abbreviations and acronyms appearing in the guide, an introduction, an alphabetical list of records series, records series descriptions, and appropriate appendices. Each guide also contains information concerning records access, the methodology used to inventory the records, the guide's scope and arrangement, and an explanation of the data items which comprise series descriptions for textual and audio-visual records as well as electronic records.
Each records series description contains a standard set of data fields. Series descriptions for textual records always include data fields for series title and inclusive dates, location, record status (as active or inactive), accession or other identification number, volume, container number, physical condition, arrangement, scanning suitability, originating office, and disposition authority. Information concerning the types of media in the series, restrictions governing access to the records, availability of finding aids, and existence of duplicate materials is also provided. In addition, each series description indicated applicable data elements chosen from HAI's revision of Information Required by the Department of Energy for Epidemiologic and Health Studies.
Given the differences between textual and electronic media, descriptions of electronic records do not have the same data fields as those for textual records. Some variations may also occur between descriptions of electronic records at different sites, depending on the availability of supporting documentation, knowledgeable site personnel, and equipment to access the records.Data Elements
In accordance with the guidelines in Information Required by the Department of Energy for Epidemiologic and Health Studies, the DOE developed a list of 123 (later revised to 86) data elements to assign to the records contained in each series. In general, the data elements consist of terms pertaining to contractor organizations, individual employees, industrial hygiene activities, and facility characteristics that help describe the major information contained in a records series. The HAI team, as part of its inventory and description of records, determines which data elements are pertinent to each records series. A list of the data elements is included in each guide an appendix. Please note that the list is arranged topically, not numerically.
HAI records guides are reviewed and edited at various stages of production. Team leaders carefully read portions of the guide as they are written, checking the data against the original inventory forms to insure that guide entries reflect accurate information. After these revisions are made, quality assurance staff review the guide, paying particular attention to the factual accuracy and editorial consistency of series descriptions. In addition, large, complex guides may be subject to peer review at any point in the production process, and support staff members responsible for formatting and entering changes to the text are alert for errors or inconsistencies. The completed draft guide is reviewed for overall cohesiveness and clarity by at least two senior team members. With the approval of EH-62, multiple copies of the guide are distributed to site personnel and stakeholders for review and comments. HAI responds to these comments before preparing the final edition.Guide Distribution
The following guides, completed in 1995, are available at DOE public reading rooms and at the National Archives and Records Administration and single copies may be requested from DOE's Office of Epidemiologic Studies (301-903-4674). A source of related information pertaining to worker and community health studies which utilized the records described in the guides is the Comprehensive Epidemiologic Resource (CEDR). A CEDR catalog may be obtained from the Office of Epidemiologic Studies and may be viewed through CEDR's WEB site at http:11cedr.lbl.gov.
Hanford Site: A Guide to Record Series Supporting Epidemiologic Studies Conducted for the Department of Energy
Volume I: Y-12 Mercury Task Force Files: A Guide to Record Series of The Department of Energy and Its Contractors
Volume II: Records Relating to Cesium at the K-25 Plant: A Guide to Record Series of the Department of Energy and Its Contractors
Volume III: Records Relating to RaLa, Iodine-131, and Cesium-137 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge Operations Office: A Guide to Record Series of the Department of Energy and Its Contractors
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education: A Guide to Record Series Supporting Epidemiologic Studies Conducted for the Department of Energy
The September 1957 Rocky Flats Fire: A Guide to Record Series of the Department of Energy and its Contractors
The Department of Energy's Rocky Flats Plant: A Guide to Record Series Useful for Health-Related Research (7 volumes)
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory: A Guide to Records Series Supporting Epidemiologic Studies Conducted for the Department of Energy
Savannah River Site
(1). Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, vol. 1, The New World, 1939-1946(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962); Hewlett and Francis Duncan, A History of the Atomic Energy Commission, vol. 2, Atomic Shield, 1947-1952 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969); Vincent C. Jones, Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center for Military History, 1984); Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986); and Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).
(2). Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Vol. 3, Atoms for Peace and War: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission, 1953-1961 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); Hewlett and B. J. Dierenfield, The Federal Role and Activities in Energy Research and Development, 1946-1980: An Historical Summary (Oak Ridge: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1983).
(3). Terrence R. Fehner and Holl, The United States Department of Energy: An Historical Summary, 1977-1994 (Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy, History Division, 1994).