As aired at the recent AGS Format discussion session following the presentation by Jeremy Giles from BGS, the concept of a national archive of site investigation data is unquestionably an excellent resource. However, the users of this facility are frequently frustrated by the ‘unavailability’ of some of the archive due to confidentiality agreements that require the BGS to not release such information to third parties. Searches by BGS against a specific location requested by a user, provide neighbouring site investigation information and print-outs of such references together with a location map indicating their sites. The user can then request either a postal or first hand study at Keyworth of a selection of such data. At this point BGS may not be able to provide all data as some of it is reserved for their exclusive use in improving the national understanding of this field of study.
Jeremy Giles agreed this was an issue but that BGS was powerless to circumnavigate such agreements. On an occasion when it had been found to have inadvertently issued such confidential data, the original sender of information had recalled all its previously lodged records! In a converse situation, a searcher of the records cited an occasion where, having found some data ‘blocked’ by BGS, contacted the original depositing company who quickly agreed to remove such exclusivity. The additional desk study information was subsequently released to the searcher following a formal letter from the depositor to BGS.
It was suggested that there should be some time bar attributable to such confidentiality agreements so that after an agreed time, the information was then allowed to be available to all. Thus AGS members may like to consider the incorporation of a common clause into their contracts stating that unless the Client expressly refused permission, the site investigation information would be sent to BGS and, after a period of time, become publicly available under normal BGS arrangements. The obvious debate to be had before this could be forwarded as a suggestion to BGS, is to define an agreed period of time.
The Client would presumably wish have a period of confidentiality so as to secure their commercial objective in obtaining the information. It is suggested that most AGS practitioners would not be too concerned as to the time period, other than easing the real problem of archiving! A period of six years may be appropriate, as much of the site investigation work in the UK is effectively carried out under hand, rather than sealed, contracts.