The amount of requests received by universities and colleges under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Data Protection Act and Environmental Information Regulations continues to increase year on year. And so, as a consequence, do the costs and time associated with responding to these requests.
I know that many larger universities and colleges, and those who have found themselves in the FOI spotlight, have already invested in their own systems to help them log and track the requests they receive. However, I’m also aware that there are many more universities and colleges out there for whom the business case did not stack up. They were unable to invest in specialist software, but are now finding that their existing, largely manual, processes are struggling to keep pace.
As part of my role at Jisc infoNet I have been working to develop a possible solution to the management of these requests. I’ve helped create the Information Request Register; this is an Excel based tool which has been developed in conjunction with FOI practitioners from a number of universities. The register offers assistance to universities and colleges, allowing them to:
- Centrally coordinate requests received under different access regimes
- Manage requests with limited staff resources, therefore reducing cost
- Automatically calculate the appropriate deadline of a request response
- View ‘at-a-glance’ visual prompts as to the status of each request
- Use readymade reports which enable providers to view the current state of requests or analyse them during a given period
- Customise the system to meet their specific requirements.
Lastly, another benefit of the register is that it provides information for the annual Information Legislation and Management Survey. The survey’s results are widely accepted as the definitive source of data about the impact of information compliance legislation on the sector, but it takes considerable time and resource for people to submit their data each year. The register collects the data needed for the survey as you go. So, rather than representing a significant body of work each January all that is required is for you to copy the relevant worksheets to a new file and email it to us, and the job is done.
Now that’s what I call a win-win situation!
I hope you decide to give the InformationRequest Register a try and do let me or my colleague Teresa Tocewicz know how you get on as any feedback would be appreciated.
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