Information Management Report – frequently asked questions

Find answers to common questions about the Information Management Report (IMR). For ease of use, we have grouped the questions into five categories. There are also links to further information at the bottom of this page.

Information Management Report (Background)

What is the Information Management Report (IMR)?

The Information Management Report is a survey that The National Archives carries out each year. Its purpose is to gain insight into the volume and transfer status of paper records held by public records bodies who transfer records to The National Archives.

Why do you collect this information?

The information collected in the IMR helps us understand how public records bodies are complying with the Public Records Act 1958 (PRA) and progressing towards implementation of the 20-year rule.

The IMR enables The National Archives to gather accurate figures from public records bodies to monitor what records they hold and to manage the transfer process throughout the year.  This, in turn, helps to enable public records bodies to comply with their statutory tasks under the PRA.

What does The National Archives do with the information it gathers through the IMR?

The National Archives reports to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport each year on the progress of the transition to the 20-year rule.  The information gathered through the IMR provides a snapshot of the position in each department, highlighting potential barriers to progress.  We also publish this data on The National Archives’ website in order to provide transparency about the overall position.

The National Archives uses data collected from previous surveys to

  • compare performance across years
  • monitor compliance
  • assist departments in managing the transfer process and identifying any need for additional resources.

When did the IMR begin?

The National Archives launched the IMR in 2017.  It replaced the Record Transfer Report (RTR) produced from 2012 until 2016.

What is the difference between the RTR and IMR?

The RTR was taken twice a year; we have determined that it is possible to provide a clearer indication of the volume of records to be transferred. The IMR is timed to capture records holdings at the end of each year. It provides more specific information about the number of records due to transfer in the current year. This gives a clearer picture of what public records bodies need to plan to deliver in the course of the year. Where possible, the format and data content of the RTR have been retained in order to enable year by year comparisons across the transition from RTR to IMR.

Why is the IMR published once a year?

The timing aims to capture a retrospective snapshot of the position as it was at the end of each year. Public records bodies prepare to gather their information at the end of the calendar year. They then submit it in the first part of the following year – so the figures in the 2018 IMR reflect the position as it was at the end of 2017.

The IMR figures enable a year-by-year comparison of the volume of records held by public records bodies. Following the IMR’s purpose, this focuses on the extent to which these are compliant with the PRA.  The overview of the records held also provides a basis for planning transfers in the coming year.

Why is there a delay between gathering the information and publishing it?

The National Archives works with public records bodies to ensure that they submit data to meet our timescales.  We check the data with the submitting body to ensure completeness and accuracy before publication.  The data reported in the IMR forms the basis of our annual report to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the progress of the transition to the 20-year rule.  We aim to publish the information as soon as possible after this report has been delivered.

Compliance

What does compliant mean?

A government department or public body is classed as compliant when they meet the deadline for transferring documents. They also should be up-to-date in transferring the documents that should be in The National Archives.

How can a department be compliant if they still have records that they should have transferred or disposed of under the PRA?

Public records bodies may retain records past their PRA due date if they are covered by a Retention Instrument. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport approves Retention Instruments based on the application submitted and refers to the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives for independent advice on questions relating to access to public records.  You can find out more about the grounds on which such retention may be approved here.

What happens if a department is not compliant with the PRA?

The Keeper of The National Archives reports annually to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the progress of public records bodies against the transition to the 20-year rule. He will advise the Secretary of State of those departments who are meeting their statutory obligations and those who are not meeting them.

Is there anything specific that you are doing about it?

The National Archives provides advice, guidance and support to public records bodies to enable compliance with the PRA and help build capability to manage records effectively.

We work with public records bodies to ensure compliance with the PRA. In this context, we have developed and launched an online Information Management Self-Assessment Tool to help organisations self-assess the effectiveness of their approach to information and records management.

Publication

Why did you not publish anything in 2017?

The National Archives sought to align the IMR figures with our transfer data to provide a holistic view of progress against the transition to the 20-year rule with the aim of presenting the data in a more clear and transparent way.  In doing so, it became apparent that there were aspects of the RTR that did not translate into the revised analysis.

You are publishing two years in one go – why is that?

We are publishing two years’ worth of downloadable, sortable and searchable data for all public records bodies that submitted an IMR, supported by graphics for the largest transferring departments.  This provides an overview that enables flexible comparisons of compliance with the PRA and progress with the transition to the 20-year rule.

Why do you only provide a visualisation for certain departments and not everyone?

The IMR visualisation concentrates on the largest transferring departments, who account for around 90% of the records transferred to The National Archives.  Focusing on them enables us to target our resources and interventions where they will deliver the greatest benefit.

Records

Why do departments hold so many records that they should have transferred or disposed of?

There has been a significant increase in legacy records reported as public records bodies develop their understanding of the type and volume of records they hold.  They may also find more records as buildings close or offices move, or they may inherit records from other organisations as part of Machinery of Government Changes.

Departments seem to transfer very few records compared to the amount that they hold – why is that?

A significant proportion of records reported in the IMR have still to be reviewed. Public records bodies are likely to identify only a very small percentage of these as having historical value and to select these for permanent preservation and transfer.

Why do departments get to retain records that they should have transferred?

Public records bodies may retain records past their due date if they are covered by a Retention Instrument approved by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who refers to the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives for independent advice on questions relating to access to public records.  You can find out more about the grounds on which such retention may be approved here.

The number of records held by many departments seems to vary dramatically from one year to the next – why?

The IMR is an annual snapshot.  Public records bodies review, select and transfer or dispose of records on an ongoing basis throughout the year, and new records become due from one year to the next.

Why are there more / fewer records being released from a specific department?

Volumes of records selected for transfer are not static or predictable.  A department may transfer a sizeable discrete collection of records one year and then a far smaller number of routine annual records the following year.  This is especially true while many public records bodies are working through sizeable legacy collections.

Digital

What about digital holdings – how is The National Archives measuring these? Will future IMRs include digital records?

In developing the IMR, we have begun looking at ways to encompass and publish similar information for both paper and digital holdings in future reports.

Are you dealing with digital records in the same way as with paper records?

The PRA is format blind – responsibilities remain the same whether the records are paper or digital.  The emerging process for appraising, selecting and transferring digital records will naturally involve different systems and processes than those currently used for paper records.

Where can I find further information?