Step 3: Sensitivity review

This step is about identifying what records need to be retained and what records can be transferred closed or open to The National Archives.

To do this the following stages should be followed:

Think and locate

Research the collection to identify key sensitivity areas and understand what you hold, building on the research you have already done in steps 1 and 2. Review the records and metadata to identify what records:

  • need to be retained under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act
  • can be transferred closed under Freedom of Information, Data Protection and other legislation
  • can be transferred open to The National Archives
  • require further consultation with other government departments

Check and do

Submit applications for the closure and retention of born-digital records to The National Archives for review and advice (under historical and non-historical exemptions).

Complete a closure/retention application form (XLS, 0.04 MB) to provide justification. The applications are submitted to TNA and are reviewed for agreement by the relevant authority.

The AC decision is shared with you. It is your responsibility to transfer the files and metadata accurately and in line with the AC agreement for any closed and/or retained files.

If you are planning to transfer open redacted versions of agreed closed or retained files, please follow these instructions:

  • If your digital record(s) and metadata has closure granted by the Advisory Council and you will be providing open redacted version(s), then you will also need to provide a copy of the original closed master file.
  • This is called the open redacted version(s) which must be contained within the same folder structure as the original closed master file that it relates to.
  • The filename for this open redacted version(s) should be the same as the original closed record that it relates to but its ending must signify it is the redacted copy, using the ‘_R’ before the filename extension. For example: Internal Auditing_R.doc

Here are some more useful tips to get started:

  • Context is key – in particular the knowledge accumulated as part of the Appraisal and Selection process
  • You need to ‘think before you look’ in relation to past sensitivities and what the best way is to characterise those sensitivities (which exemptions are typically applied); this information can be found in your administrative history, prior paper transfers, key stakeholders, function and key events
  • Consult with your internal divisions
  • Some existing commercial software, for example e-Discovery software used in the legal profession, can prove helpful, in particular when personal sensitivities are known – for example to find names or National Insurance numbers (for more information see The National Archives’ research paper on The application of technology-assisted review to born-digital records transfer, Inquiries and beyond)