[Crm-sig] Issue: CRM compatibility

Nicholas Crofts nickcrofts at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 25 12:09:49 EEST 2008

Dear all,
  A few thoughts about being “CRM compliant”.
  For software vendors, being or not being CRM compliant has started to become an important issue. This is actually a very good sign since it demonstrates that the CRM has made a real impact and is being taken seriously. Consequently it is both timely and important that we find ways to clarify the issue of compliancy. As has been pointed out by others, we cannot allow the question to remain unsettled for long since a barrage of unsupported claims and counter claims about compliancy will quickly discredit the standard and undermine years of hard work.

  There are essentially two paradigms by which compliance with a standard can be established:

     By independently verifiable criteria
     Certification by a certifying authority. 

  The first model is ideal when easily verifiable criteria form part of the standard itself. This applies most obviously to technical standards which consist of instructions or rules about how to do something, such as SQL-92, or XML. Being conformant with the standard simply means that all the rules are respected. Whether the rules are respected or not is obvious and easy to check. Often, conformancy may be verified by a battery of technical tests, sometimes provided in the form of a validation service. e.g. The W3C syntax validator at http://validator.w3.org/

  Something like the second model becomes necessary when the condition that need to be met are complex or subject to interpretation. Sectrum accreditation, administered by the Collections Trust (formerly mda), is an example of this approach. Being compliant with Spectrum is the result of a formal testing process carried out by the Collections Trust and requires that software vendors become members of the Spectrum Partners Scheme, http://www.mda.org.uk/mempf. (for which there is an annual fee). Similarly, compliance with ISO 9000, 9001 and 9004 standards can be established by a certifying authority, as a result of an audit which needs to be renewed every three years. (Unlike the Collections Trust, ISO does not perform the certification itself: audits are carried out by accredited third-party agencies, in accordance with an established procedure.)

  It is important to note that the certification authority has to be seen to be both competent and disinterested in order to be accepted as legitimate. 

  As I see it, the current with respect to CRM compliance leaves a lot to be desired:

     The criteria which constitute CRM compliancy are not clearly defined.
     There is no recognised and established body which can legitimately claim the right to certify that a product is or is not CRM compliant.
     Consequently, there is no clearly defined testing procedure by which CRM compliancy can be established.

  It might be thought that ISO 21127, the 'official' version of the CRM, constitutes a set of independently verifiable rules by which conformance can be objectively established. I would argue that this is not the case, primarily because the CRM, as a conceptual model, does not deal with questions of implementation and use. Implementation requires interpretation and the CRM can be used in many diverse ways. It is not a simple matter to define which interpretations and uses are compliant and which are not. There is also the question of scope. Does an application have to implement all of the CRM to count as compliant, or just part of it? If a partial implementation is considered acceptable, what is the minimum requirement? At present, we do not have clear-cut answers to these questions. 

  As for the 'certifying authority', it might be argued that CRM-SIG already constitutes such a body, since that is where much of the CRM expertise is to be found. However, as it stands, the CRM-SIG is not a satisfactory candidate for this role. Firstly, its membership is open and fluctuating. It is not clear exactly who within the CRM-SIG would be able to certify CRM compliancy. It would be impractical to expect the CRM-SIG as a whole to undertake such a task since would be too large a body. Inversely, not all individuals members of the SIG have the necessary competence and some, stake-holders with commercial interests, may lack the required neutrality. 

  Standards certification is clearly outside the remit of the ISO working group (ISO TC46/SC4/WG9) which, furthermore, lacks the resources to assume this sort of task.

  Finally, the CIDOC documentation standards group has neither the expertise nor the stability to assume the role of certification authority.

  So what we can we do to improve the situation? To set the ball rolling here are a few suggestions.

  Setting up and running a certification agency is a complicated business, so we should try to find ways to avoid this if possible by allowing validation through independently verifiable criteria.

  It may be helpful to establish different levels of conformance, starting for example, from some core elements – as as Martin has suggested – and proceeding to a 'theoretical' maximum coverage. The CRM-SIG could decide which elements are core elements and what constitutes the different level of conformance. The notion of “core elements” should not, I think, be restricted simply to classes and properties, but should encompass functionality too - such as handling of shortcuts, query containment for subclasses, sub-typing, handling of extended data schemas, etc. 
  It would be very appealing if a suite of automated tests could be developed which would allow independent verification of compliance. One way of doing this might be to have a test dataset, or several graded datasets, which applications would have to import, modify and export. The results could be evaluated automatically. This presupposed, of course, that we have at least one standardised import/export format for representing CRM compatible data.

  A 'cosmetic' but psychologically important detail – we might consider designing a compatibility logo, or certificate that could be used as a sticker on compatible products. 
  Best wishes

martin <martin at ics.forth.gr> wrote:
  Dear Edmund,

That is helpful indeed. We have specific datasets that encode simple cases in a simple schema,
which can be mapped to the CRM, but not all foreseen cases of use of this schema could be mapped to
the CRM. So, the system (e.g., DC) is not compliant, but the data were.

Another problem are very dedicated systems, such as the cross-reference lists of Roman Inscriptions
maintained by Clauss-Slaby in Frankfurt, which maps to the CRM, but does not contain any event. But
then their scope does not extend to events actually.



LEE, Edmund wrote:
> Hello Martin,
> Indeed I think this is an essential area to protect the integrity of the
> CRM. In the recent development of MIDAS Heritage
> (www.midas-heritage.org.uk) for the UK historic environment sector much
> thought and attention was given to compliance.
> Essentially there are two forms of compliance with MIDAS Heritage:
> information system compliance (i.e. the software can provide all the
> necessary features to comply) and dataset compliance (the dataset
> contains all the necessary data, suitable to the objectives of the
> dataset). This reflects the opinion that theses aspects of compliance
> are typically the responsibility of different people - the software
> vendors, and the dataset managers.
> Is that useful? The detail is given in Part One of MIDAS Heritage pages
> 17 - 20.
> Edmund Lee
> Standards and Guidelines Manager 
> Training and Standards Team
> English Heritage
> NMRC, Kemble Drive
> Swindon
> SN2 2GZ
> Tel +44 (0)1793 414719
> Fax +44 (0) 1793 414444
> Find EH guidelines online at www.helm.org.uk 
> or www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications
> -----Original Message-----
> From: crm-sig-bounces at ics.forth.gr [mailto:crm-sig-bounces at ics.forth.gr]
> On Behalf Of martin
> Sent: 21 April 2008 11:43
> To: crm-sig
> Subject: [Crm-sig] Issue: CRM compatibility
> Dear All,
> Recently there seem to be increasing claims of compatibility with the
> CIDOC CRM. May be our
> standard text is not clear enough about that. I suggest to regard as
> minimal compatibility the ability to
> represent at least certain kinds of possibly multiple events associated
> with a Thing or an Actor.
> This needs further elaboration.
> Best,
> Martin


Dr. Martin Doerr | Vox:+30(2810)391625 |
Principle Researcher | Fax:+30(2810)391638 |
| Email: martin at ics.forth.gr |
Center for Cultural Informatics |
Information Systems Laboratory |
Institute of Computer Science |
Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH) |
Vassilika Vouton,P.O.Box1385,GR71110 Heraklion,Crete,Greece |
Web-site: http://www.ics.forth.gr/isl |

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