Archival Innovator Award: Opioid Industry Documents Archive

The UCSF-JHU Opioid Industry Documents Archive (OIDA), a digital archives of litigation documents relating to the opioid epidemic, is the 2023 recipient of the Archival Innovator Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The Archival Innovator Award recognizes an archivist, a group of archivists, a repository, or an organization that demonstrates the greatest overall current impact on the profession or their communities.

An expansive collaboration between libraries and health programs at the University of California, San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University, OIDA is a key resource that advances the public’s understanding of the causes of the opioid epidemic to prevent future harm. From managing sensitive information to facilitating ease of research and connecting the collection with users, OIDA’s development has continually showcased innovative thinking and practice. The team’s impressive management of data privacy for more than 3.1 million documents holding personally identifiable information and protected health information serves as a model for other public health archives. OIDA’s advanced research tools allow users to efficiently search and track specialized data. With the assistance of seed grants, OIDA has increased the involvement of university faculty in the project and addressed challenges like creating robust metadata and redaction protocols through evolving automated processes.

The success of OIDA’s development is due in part to the collection’s wide engagement outside of academia. The OIDA project team and their national advisory committee represent a range of professions, including archivists, activists, attorneys, writers, educators, medical professionals, historians, computer scientists, and anthropologists. This network of professionals, led by Kate Tasker, UCSF Industry Documents Library managing archivist, and Caleb Alexander, professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and founding director of its Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, has informed the sustainability of the archives and its user experience. The OIDA team has actively promoted the archives to journalists, policymakers, community members, and other stakeholders, and it has supported presentations, guest lectures, training sessions, labs, practicum experience, and independent research projects for more than 1,700 students, faculty, and researchers since its launch in March 2021. The SAA Awards Committee commended the repository’s team for “developing exceptional tools and practices that will have long-term benefits to the archival profession.”

“The OIDA team thanks all those who have worked so hard to support document disclosure in opioid litigation, including individuals and families impacted by the opioid crisis, community organizations, public health professionals, attorneys and legal staff, historians, and many other advocates,” Tasker said. “We are proud for our work on OIDA to be recognized by fellow archivists who know the value of archives as sources for truth. OIDA builds on the strong foundation of the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library, and we look forward to continuing to innovate as we work to make these critically important documents accessible to the public.”

SAA’s Archival Innovator Award was established in 2012. Previous recipients include Laura Gottlieb and Robbie Terman of the Center for Michigan Jewish History and the Community-Driven Archives at Arizona State University Library.