It is important that records follow the correct path, and decisions are made according to pre-determined rules and criteria.
- Appraisal and disposal. This process should be done according to pre-defined criteria and processes so that we can explain why the records were destroyed, and to ensure no trace of the records remain. Because the University is bound by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, there is an even greater need for transparency and accountability, and clear guidance and practice around records retention. The schedule only defines minimum retention periods, and there may be exceptions (esp. if the information is subject to a current FOI request) where records need to be retained for longer periods. Record destruction should be a regularly scheduled business process. Processes need to ensure that all copies of records are destroyed (inc. off site stores, backups, etc.).
- Preservation and curation. There is operational and legal value in records as well as historic value. Our archive needs to have appropriate conditions for storing items (with controls for humidity, temperature, insects, and security). Electronic records are sensitive to environmental conditions, hardware obsolescence (floppy disks), software changes (format incompatibility). We should have separate facilities with correct environmental controls, tools to help find records in the archive, use standard methods for describing the archive, and test before moving electronic records to new formats.
It is good practice to document the disposal process: what has been destroyed, by what criteria has it been selected for destruction, whose authority said it should be done, what were the outcomes of the process. We do not need to document the deletion of every email in this way, but could have a general policy statement which defines what types of email users should routinely destroy, and which should be formally retained.