Information Studies


The impact of the UK Freedom of Information Act on records management in the public sector

The Freedom of Information Act and records management project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for 14 months (2008-2009).


The UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force in January 2005. The Act imposes significant duties and responsibilities on public authorities to give access to information. To achieve this, public authorities need to know what information they hold, manage and retrieve information effectively, deal expeditiously (within 20 days) with FOI requests, and disseminate information through a publication scheme. As was made clear in the Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice on the management of records published in compliance with FOIA (s 46), effective records management enables authorities to meet these obligations and underpins FOI. Together with Data Protection Act 1998 and Modernising Government agenda, FOI is a significant part of the wider government agenda to increase openness, transparency, trust and accountability in the public sector. The impact of information policy and freedom of information on public services and the effectiveness of public authorities in meeting their obligations are significant factors in the accountability of government to its citizens and of concern to all.

The central research question is: what has the impact of the UK Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 been on records management services in public authorities? More specifically, the project will examine:
(a) how well records management services prepared for and coped with the first three years of FOI implementation
(b)what contribution records management services make to the ability of public authorities to comply with the FOI Act
(c) how the user experience of FOI is affected by the management of records
(d) what the implications are of FOI so far for good practice in records management.

The research will seek to discover the impact of FOI and its link with records management from three perspectives:
1. records managers
2. institutional FOI policy managers
3. FOI requesters and user communities

We aim to demonstrate how each group contributes to and benefits from the inter-relationship between records management and FOI. It will also identify examples of good practice which can be shared within the records management and public sector communities and will disseminate theoretical and policy findings to the professional, academic and public policy communities through publication.

Details of the project dissemination activities can be found here.

Details of project publications can be found here

The project is directed by a Management Board.

For further details please contact Dr Elizabeth Shepherd (Principal Investigator), e.shepherd@ucl.ac.uk