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Research Data Management

Archiving, retention & preservation requirements

If data is thought to be a valuable asset to the researcher, the University and the community, it may be understood that locking data away in a network drive or other location no-one can access is counterproductive. Even sensitive data should be made available in a discoverable format - whether that be in a de-identifiable format or via metadata only.

Consider also that the University's practice of clearing network drives or Cloud storage locations as part of a regular IT clean up may mean the loss of valuable data that may be requested to reproduce research.

Research data is therefore required by the University to be archived in a suitable location so it can be made available for the purposes of validating the research and furthering knowledge.

At Notre Dame, the institutional solution for archiving research data is Microsoft Azure.

Not everything associated with the data will need to be retained in many cases. You should consider:

  1. What data and related information is needed to make your research reproducible.
  2. What data is considered central to the research project and how much of the data can be easily obtained elsewhere (eg. ABS statistics, shared imagery, standard test datasets).
  3. File formats that will stand the test of time - see the File format section on the File management page.
  4. Costs associated with storage. If using Notre Dame facilities for archiving (highly recommended), this is unlikely to affect individual researchers. However in the case of using alternative archiving facilities, there may be costs involved.

There is a requirement that every researcher retain their research data for a number of years - this retention period changes depending on the nature of the research.

Notre Dame complies with the relevant minimum durations set out in the Western Australian University Sector Disposal Authority, the General Retention and Disposal Authority: Higher and Further Education (NSW) and the Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Higher and Further Education Functions (Victoria). Where there is any difference in retention periods between these instruments, Research Data should be kept for the maximum period.*

Please refer to the Procedure: Research Data Management for more information, or see below for a quick reference table for the requirements.

*Note that you should also check with any collaborators and funding bodies if they have any additional data preservation requirements.


Minimum data retention requirements quick reference table*
Description Retention Requirement
Research data, analysis and results with outcomes that are classed as "Major". Retain permanently.
Research data, analysis and results that are classed minor involving humans or animals that utilise high risk materials (eg. teratogens and carcinogens, ionising radiation or dangerous drugs.) Retain for a minimum of 50 years after date of publication, OR 50 years after conclusion of the project (whichever is later) then destroy.
Minor research data, analysis and results with outcomes that are classed as minor, but involving clinical trials. Retain for a minimum of 25 years after date of publication, OR 25 years after conclusion of the project (whichever is later) then destroy.
Research data, analysis and results with outcomes that are classed as minor, where the project involves children (participants under 18 years of age) Retain for a minimum of 15 years after publication or project completion, OR until the subject/s have reached 25 years of age (whichever is later) then destroy. 
Research data, analysis and results with outcomes that are classed as minor, not covered by other minor research classes. Retain for a minimum of 7 years after date of publication, OR 7 years after conclusion of the project (whichever is later) then destroy.
Research data, analysis and results relating to short-term research projects undertaken by students for assessment purposes (e.g. undergraduate degree projects) Retain for a minimum of 12 months after the completion of the project, then destroy.

The concept of data preservation is similar to retention, but has some key differences.

Retention is usually a mandated requirement for researchers - it's the task that ensures that a bare minimum of data will remain available in some format.

Preservation refers to having an active plan to ensure that when you do need to access your old data, it's readily available and can be easily accessed and manipulated by whoever needs it. When making a plan for data preservation you should include activities such as:

  1. Transferring data from older storage formats to newer ones. This will ensure the technology required to access your data is still available.
  2. Transferring data from older file formats to newer ones. This will ensure that your data can still be opened by current software applications.
  3. Having multiple copies of the data in different locations. This will ensure that your data is not lost in an unexpected event, such as theft, floods or fires.
  4. Ensuring your data is well documented, such as making notes on software used as creating codebooks as outlined in the Documentation and description section of this guide. This will ensure that when you come back to access your data, you'll be able to remember what it all means.

All of these types of activities will improve how reusable your data is for other researchers.

Library of Congress. (April 2, 2010). Why digital preservation is important for everyone [Video file]. https://youtu.be/qEmmeFFafUs

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