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Issuing Office: OA/OMA 301-496-4606


A. Purpose: This chapter provides instructions for specific NIH records. All previous authorizations for the disposition of NIH records are hereby superseded.

This schedule must be used in conjunction with the General Records Schedule (GRS) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The GRS provides for the disposition of records generally used in Government offices, such as personnel records or general administration records.

B. Scope: These instructions ensure that necessary and useful records are retained in the files of NIH offices and laboratories for as long as required and reasonable; that information can be retrieved efficiently from these files because unnecessary records have been weeded out; that valuable space is not taken up by records not needed for current business; and that records with lasting historical, legal or scientific value are preserved.

C. Background and References: Recordkeeping by Federal agencies is controlled by laws and regulations which require that (1) government records be kept only for authorized periods of time; (2) no government records be destroyed, mutilated or removed from government custody without authorization; (3) records which are valuable enough to be preserved permanently be kept intact and be transferred to the National Archives as appropriate; (4) records which are not in active use, but which cannot be destroyed for some time, be transferred to a Federal Records Center.

D. Application:

The NIH Records Control Schedule, which is Appendix 1 to this chapter, contains specific instructions as to how long records of any given type may be kept and what must be done with them after the specified period. These instructions are legally binding. Records may not be destroyed before the authorized time, and they may not be kept for periods longer than those specified in the schedule. Records scheduled for permanent retention should be offered to the National Archives at the time specified.

E. NIH Staff Responsibilities:

1. The NIH Records Management Officer, Office of Management Assessment (OMA), Office of Administration (OA), is responsible for:

a. developing, maintaining and revising the NIH Records Control Schedule;

b. assisting and advising NIH offices on interpreting or applying the records control schedule within NIH;

c. providing liaison with DHHS and higher authorities regarding all aspects of records keeping and disposal.

2. It is the responsibility of each IC Records Management Officer and/or records liaison to implement the policies and procedures as stated in both the NIH Records Control Schedule (NIH Manual 1743, "Keeping and Destroying Records," as the General Records Schedule (GRS), including:

a. ensuring that the records control schedule is implemented within each IC;

b. assisting and advising IC personnel on interpretation of the schedules;

c. ensuring that all employees know the difference between personal and agency records;

d. assisting IC personnel in retiring inactive records to the Washington National Records Center (WNRC) by reviewing, signing off on and transmitting to the NIH RMO, the Records Transmittal and Receipt, Form SF 135; and

e. reviewing and transmitting reference requests to the WNRC, Form OF 11, for withdrawing records from the WNRC.

3. NIH IC and OD Office Directors:

a. designate an IC/OD Office records management official;

b. integrate the NIH records management program into IC/OD Office operations and ensure compliance;

c. apply the recordkeeping and disposal instructions from the NIH Records Control Schedule to IC/OD Office files; and

d. ensure that adequate records management training is provided to all staff.

4. Each office: 

a. is responsible for applying the recordkeeping and disposal instructions from the NIH Records Control Schedule to its files; 

b. initiates requests to transfer records to WNRC or withdraw records from WNRC;

c. boxes its records and marks the boxes, as instructed in the 1742 Transfer, Withdrawal And Destruction of  Records At The Washington National Records Center Section E.5.b. and 5.c., before transfer to WNRC; and

 d. prepares forms and other paperwork necessary for sending, withdrawing or disposing of records at the WNRC and transmits the paperwork to their respective IC Records Officer for review and clearance.

5. All employees are warned that destruction or removal of government records other than as authorized in an approved records schedule is a serious offense that could lead to adverse action against the individual.

F.  Records: Records may have any physical form or characteristics. Records may be on paper, microfilm, magnetic tapes, cards, disks, or any other material. They may be letters, memoranda, reports or other materials commonly found in office files. They may also be laboratory notebooks, instrument readings, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures, maps, books, drawings, data bases or in any other form or format.

The official records of the National Institutes of Health are created by or for NIH or received by NIH in the course of doing business. The essential point about these records is (1) that they contain information about the organization, functions, policies, procedures, decisions or other activities of NIH or any of its components, or (2) that they contain information, such as biomedical data, which is useful to NIH in carrying out its mission. These records are the property of the U.S. Government. They do not belong to individuals.

G. Non-Records Materials: Certain documentary materials are specifically excluded by law (44 U.S.C. 3301) from the records of the Federal Government. Such materials are called "non-record." Any one or more of these three factors may determine whether something is a record or non-record: (1) the nature of the material; (2)the relationship to records; and (3) the use of the material.

(1) Nature: Some items by their very nature are non-record. They include blank forms, routing sheets, transmittal sheets and reproduction materials such as stencils and offset plates.

(2) Relationship to records: Documents such as transcribed stenographic materials, working papers and drafts, that are used in creating official records are non-record. Identical duplicates of all records maintained in the same file are non-record. Follow-up materials, such as "tickler" or suspense copies of correspondence, that are used to facilitate operations but not to document those operations are non-record. Note: indexes and other finding aids to records are themselves record material.

(3) Use: Any materials used exclusively for reference purposes are non-record. They include library collections, vendors catalogs, journals and similar materials. Copies of records which are maintained solely for reference purposes are also non-record if no administrative action is taken on them.

Materials used solely for exhibit or display are non-record, unless they describe the operations, policies, procedures or accomplishments of NIH.

Stocks of publications and processed documents kept for distribution are non-record, but one copy of each publication must be kept as a record in the office responsible for issuing it.

Documents created or used in fringe activities, such as carpool locators, charitable fund drives and employee recreation and welfare activities are not government records.

Non-record materials should be removed from NIH files as soon as they are no longer needed.

Caution should be used in applying the term non-record. Improper application of this qualification may be equivalent to the illegal disposition of government records.

When removing or destroying non-record materials, take care that any documents which are sensitive, confidential, or subject to the Privacy Act are protected from unauthorized disclosure.

H. Personal Files: Personal files are those that relate only to an individual's personal affairs and do not affect the conduct of agency business. Papers or other documents that a person creates or receives in connection with the performance of official duties are government records and must be treated as such.

Even correspondence marked "personal," "confidential" or "private" is an official record if it relates to official activities. If private, personal correspondence contains portions which require official action or response, those portions which require official action or response must be extracted and made a part of official files. Research notes and reports created by scientists working at NIH are official records that belong to the government, not the individual researcher. In some cases, even diaries, appointment books and other schedules of personal activities are considered government records.

Personal files kept in NIH offices or other facilities must be designated as personal and must be maintained apart from official records.

I. Privacy Act Records: Contact your IC Privacy Act Coordinator or the NIH Privacy Act Officer,  (see also HHS General Administration Manual Chapter 45-10, page 886.)

J. Micrographics:  All permanent records on microfilm must follow the standards for the Storage, Use and Disposition of Microform Records, 36 CFR 1230 subpart D.

K. Inactive Records:  Inactive records which must be retained for three or more years according to the disposition specified in this schedule or the GRS, may be retired to a Federal Records Center. See NIH Manual 1742.

L. Additional Information:  For more information on this chapter, call the Division of Management Support (DMS), Office of Management Assessment (OMA), on 301-496-4606.


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