Disposal of documents
THE ART OF SAVING SPACE WITHOUT LOSING INFORMATION
The basic idea of archiving is to preserve information. Purely for space and financial reasons, it is, however, necessary to make a selection of which documents are to be preserved. The documents you choose not to preserve are disposed of, in other words, they are destroyed. Naturally this must be done in a way that minimises the University’s loss of information, and disposal must, therefore, not be done without clear regulatory support.
What does disposal of documents mean?
Disposal is defined as “destruction of public documents or information in public documents”. This could mean destroying information in its entirety (discard, shred, burn, etc.), but also the partial loss of information through transfers to another medium.
Saving signed original minutes merely in the form of a photocopy, for example, results in a loss of authenticity (signature); saving a database in the form of a printout on paper results in the loss of search and sorting options. These are also ways of disposal.
You can read more about the principles of disposal in the Swedish National Archives’ report, “Om gallring” (About disposal), as well as in the National Archives’ disposal and preservation policies,
“Om gallring”, in Swedish (PDF at the National Archives, new tab)
Preserving the present day, in Swedish (PDF at the National Archives, new tab)
What should you consider when disposing?
Good disposal practices are designed to save space without losing important information. Therefore, you should always consider how unique and important the information in a document is before you consider destroying it. Generally, much of the information that may be disposed consists of various types of supporting documentation, while the final compilation of that same data shall usually be preserved forever. Some typical examples:
- Course application documents
- Submitted exams (not degree projects)
- Course evaluations
- Compilations of admitted students
- Grading documents
- Compilations of course evaluations
What can you dispose?
As a general rule, a government authority can only dispose of public documents determined by the special regulations from the Swedish National Archives or the local decisions on disposal criteria laid down by the University itself. The exception is documents that may be considered “temporary or of little significance to the public authority’s activities”. Examples of the latter would be advertising, information notifications, routine inquiries and duplicate documents. You will have to apply sound judgment to determine what falls within this category.
A compilation of the National Archives and the University’s own provisions regarding disposal are included in our records management plan, which also includes information on the retention periods for the various documents.
The rules on disposal state that, generally, we are permitted to dispose of documents, but not obligated to. Often, there may be reasons to consider whether or not documents which normally would be destroyed in fact should be saved, for example, for historical reasons. This might also apply to internal working materials which are not formally considered public documents, but may be of interest as scientific or organizational history for instance. If you are uncertain whether or not it is appropriate to dispose of something – please contact the University Archives.
Registered documents are generally never disposed of.
Special rules apply when disposing of research documents.
What must you especially consider when disposing of documents linked to EU projects?
Research is an area in which EU funding may frequently occur. If you as a researcher have received EU funding, you need to bear in mind that parts of your material may need to be stored longer than specified by Swedish national rules, due to EU auditing requirements. We generally recommend that these documents not be disposed of until after 17 years. Negligence in this regard could lead to the University having to repay the funds received.
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Records Management and Archives
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