Movement and disposal of research data

Exit strategy

Researchers should start developing an exit plan with their supervisors and immediate collaborators, at least a month before leaving. The exit strategy should ensure that any data leaving the University is also archived at Swinburne and state clearly who is responsible for the ongoing management and if relevant, the dissemination of data. An effective exit plan also helps with meeting legal and ethical requirements for human research and biohazardous data.

Research requiring ethics approval

The Swinburne Research Ethics team provides online resources for academics and students embarking on research projects that require ethics approval. These include information about research ethics and integrity, research data management, and retention policies and disposal relevant to research involving humans, animals or biohazardous material (including genetically modified organisms). Researchers requiring ethics or biosafety approval should be familiar with the University’s policies and procedures, and the ethics or biosafety application and approval processes.

Retention policies for ethics approved and NHMRC funded research

Data needs to be securely retained and then securely disposed of or destroyed when data no longer needed, or if there is a legal requirement that data be deleted when the retention period lapses. How long the data or material need to be retained depends on the type of research or data. Research data should be retained for as long as there is need for referral to the data, for example, to justify or defend the research, or to satisfy legislative or some other standard. Some minimum standards as follows:

  • For most research, the minimum recommended standard is 5 years from the date of any published or reportable outcome based on the data.
  • For short term projects which will not lead to published outcomes and are only for assessment purposes, the minimum period, should be sufficient to cover the assessment period (including any appeals in case of dispute). A minimum period of 12 months after the completion of the project is deemed sufficient.
  • For health research, the minimum period is 7 years after last usage or service provision, or 5 years after any research outcome based on the data, whichever is the longer. Health records legislation may be relevant here and researchers may need to be alert to this.
  • For identifiable health research data involving minors, the data may need to be retained until the individuals turn 25 years of age, or 5 years after any research outcome based on the data, whichever is the longer.
  • For adverse incidents occurring during or as a result of the research that have health implications, the standard applying to health records should be followed.
  • For most clinical trials, at least those involving substances being administered to individuals, retaining research data for 15 years or more may be necessary.
  • For research data for areas such as gene therapy, the retention period should be permanent.
  • For research data that has heritage or community value, archival standards would apply, preferably in a national collection.

You may also need to be alert to other applicable standards and requirements, for example, if you have approval to include a voluntary prize draw or lottery, you would need to satisfy record-keeping requirements under gaming regulation.