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:

  1. 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
  1. 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). The applications are submitted to the Advisory Council (AC) and are reviewed at one of their meetings. The AC decision is shared with you. Once approved, make sure retained information is excluded from transfer; closed records and metadata are redacted (if necessary) and copies of the redacted records are created.

Here are some 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)