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ACHRE Report
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ACHRE Report

Final Report


Some Initial Questions and Answers


Part I: Finding Federal Records

Part II: Agency Information and Services

Part III: Personal Medical Records

Part IV: Using the ACHRE Collection as a Place to Start

Part IV: Using the ACHRE Collection as a Place to Start

What Is in the Collection and What Is Not

The ACHRE research collection, which will be deposited in its entirety at the National Archives as part of Record Group 220, Presidential Committees, Commissions, and Boards,[30] is composed primarily of documents identified through agency search processes or selected by the Advisory Committee through requests or site visits to forty-five nonfederal as well as federal institutions. These efforts have not exhausted all research possibilities, but the volume of materials now identified and available to the public is very large. The Advisory Committee has not attempted to collect everything that might be pertinent, but has emphasized primary materials of wide importance. The resulting collection is rich in its breadth and variety, but frequently limited in the depth to which individual events or people are documented. Most records in the collection do not contain information about the individual subjects of human radiation experiments.

ACHRE records can make two significant contributions to the efforts of the individual researcher. First, there is no other collection in which pertinent materials from so many different sources are available in a scholarly arrangement with a substantial finding aid. Second, the collection deposited with the National Archives also includes the Advisory Committee's own research documents, including substantial unpublished notes, histories, analyses, and findings. The comprehensiveness of the collection and the added value of the Advisory Committee's scholarship make the ACHRE records a good starting point for citizens researching the public and private histories of human radiation experiments.


The Advisory Committee's general charge was to provide advice on the character of historical and present-day policies and practices in human radiation research. The scope of such activities and the difficulty in identifying and retrieving relevant records were initially underestimated, but agency and Advisory Committee staff sought out and documented as many experiments as resources permitted. Two points should be emphasized here. First, the agencies and the Advisory Committee collected and recorded information about every experiment that could be documented. The inclusion of an experiment should not be taken as an indication that the experiment was ethically improper or likely to have caused harm to those involved.

Second, there was never an expectation that this effort would succeed in assembling a complete list of experiments or that full documentation for any large proportion of those identified could be discovered and retrieved within the time permitted. The Advisory Committee's research interest was focused on understanding the scope of activity (for example, the number and types of subjects typical for experiments of a certain character) and the policy context (for example, institutional procedures for the review of informed consent practices), than on accumulating the details of particular cases. As a result, although the Advisory Committee's log of such experiments is the most comprehensive and detailed assembled to date, the records of particular experiments are incomplete. Many experiments are documented entirely through a publication of results and many others are documented by references to even briefer descriptions of experiments in records reviewed by the Interagency Working Group or ACHRE.

The chief value of the Advisory Committee's experiment record series is in providing identifying information such as location, dates, and researchers' names--a good place to start. The experiment records are indexed by location, financial sponsorship, principal investigator (and his or her home institution), and other key pieces of information that could support extended research. Such information may be used to find additional information either in the ACHRE collection or elsewhere.

Finding Aids

There are two sets of finding aids for the Advisory Committee's records. The first is entitled Sources and Documentation, a supplement to this final report. The two-volume supplement features accounts of the agency and ACHRE research processes, descriptions of the record collections assembled by the Advisory Committee and of individual documents identified as significant, a complete bibliography of the published sources used in the Advisory Committee's research, brief descriptions of individual experiments, lists of testifiers and interviewees, indexes, collections of documents, and other research aids.

The second aid is the electronic record upon which much of the supplemental volume is based. Unfortunately, the National Archives is unable to make this information available in its original format, although it will be available there in simplified electronic formats with explanatory documentation. Copies of the original databases, documentation, and operating instructions will be available at the National Security Archive, an independent research institute whose offices are in the Gelman Library at George Washington University.[31] In addition to these facilities, both the National Archives and the National Security Archive provide access to the electronic records contained in the Advisory Committee's original gopher.[32] The gopher materials include electronic copies of the Advisory Committee meeting documents (briefing books, minutes, and transcripts), condensed descriptions of record collections and experiments, and other information.

How to Go From the ACHRE Collection to Agency Records

There are two sources of information that connect records contained in the ACHRE collection with those of the agencies and the National Archives. The first are document identifiers provided by the agencies; the second are transmittal records that identify the origins of the records.

Agency Document Identifiers

Most Department of Energy and a large proportion of Department of Defense documents are marked with unique identifiers that will allow location of those documents in DOE and DOD retrieval systems. Those retrieval systems include provenance information,[33] that is, information that identifies the record's office of origin and other information about its creation and current location.

DOE documents are stamped with a CIC number,[34] a six-digit accession number that uniquely identifies a document or document set (that is, documents described as a group rather than individually) that can be used to retrieve CIC records with their attendant provenance and other information management information. DOE's Internet facility can be used to identify these documents. Information is also available directly from the CIC, which also provides its index on CD-ROM using Folio Views text retrieval software.

Beginning in the fall of 1994, DOD documents supplied to the Advisory Committee were assigned accession numbers by the Radiation Experiments Command Center (RECC). These numbers denote a document's origin and the date it was sent to ACHRE. For example, records bearing numbers beginning "ARM" originated with the U.S. Army. Later in 1994 the RECC began to assign accession numbers retroactively to documents transmitted earlier. These accession numbers are available in the RECC library catalog, which was converted by ACHRE staff and is available among the Advisory Committee's records in both hard copy and electronic formats.[35]

Records of Agency Transmittal

Most records accessioned into the ACHRE collection were transmitted or deposited with documents indicating their origins. For example, materials obtained from the National Archives usually have notations indicating record group, series, and box numbers; agency records have accompanying documents indicating where materials were obtained; and donations from individuals include such information as the address of the donor. This information is collected in a ACHRE Records Management Series, Records Accession and Disposition File. Summaries of this information are included in the electronic records kept in the Document Collection database. Additional information concerning specially requested information is contained in the Agency Data Requests records file, which includes the Agency Data Requests Tracking database.