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  1. Framework for Good Practice in Research
  2. Documentation of research and data archiving

Documentation of research and data archiving

For all research carried out by members of City, documentation should be clear and complete. Maintenance of the documentation is the responsibility of the researcher. Accurate records should be kept of the methodologies used and the results obtained throughout the whole process. This is required not only to demonstrate the use of proper practice but also as evidence in the event of any subsequent questioning on process and conduct, including possible patent applications.

Documentation should be stored safely and filed in a coherent, easily accessible format. Where documentation includes data relating to individuals, the researcher must ensure that this is stored securely and confidentially, is not kept for longer than necessary and is disposed of at the appropriate time with due regard to security and confidentiality. Where documentation is stored in electronic format, the researcher should ensure that back-up copies are maintained and kept securely. Hard copies of any key documents should always be kept.

In relation to the gathering, recording and storage of data in clinical research or in laboratory-based work, additional guidance should be investigated and followed such as that available from the Medical Research Council (e.g. Good Research Practice: Medical Research Council Ethics Series).

Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of suitable storage and secure disposal facilities rests with Schools who, within City’s management structure, are responsible for arranging with the institution the identification, allocation and management of space and facilities to meet the needs of their staff and subject areas.

The main features of good research practice for documentation include:

  • The clear documentation of the methods and processes that are used in the research, and the preservation of such documentation for at least ten years.
  • The safe and secure storage of primary data, normally for at least ten years, and a safe and secure method of disposal after this time, all in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

The requirements for data storage and archiving will vary according to the academic discipline and may also be dictated by the funding body and/or publisher where relevant (e.g. the ESRC requires any data resulting from research it funds to be deposited in the UK Data Archive). Research data may include the factual records (numerical scores, textual records, images and sounds) used as primary sources for the research and required for the validation of the research findings, along with associated documentation such as laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, drafts of papers or other types of output, peer reviews and personal communications, and in some instances physical objects.

In the event of a member of staff leaving City, data and records relating to any research undertaken during the course of their employment remain the property of City unless otherwise agreed (for example as part of the terms of a funding agreement or in the case of the transfer of a grant to another university with a departing Principal Investigator). The Head of Department should ensure that discussion takes place with the departing member of staff (and where appropriate their research group) during the notice period to consider the future needs of the Department or research group and of the member of staff, and to agree the basis on which data and records will be retained within City and/or taken as copies or originals by the member of staff on their departure. It may be necessary to consult additional colleagues working in the area to determine the best outcome, particularly in the case of staff carrying out research independently of a team. All data or records retained need to be in a form which is usable by others who have not been closely involved with the original work. In the case of data derived from research involving human participants, consideration should also be given to the basis on which consent was given for the data to be used to ensure that this is not breached by any future re-use of data.

The same considerations apply in the case of research students where the supervisor(s) should ensure that discussion takes place with their student, and where appropriate with the Head of Department or research group, in advance of the research student’s completion of their thesis and/or departure from City. City does not lay claim to the intellectual property or associated records arising from research projects undertaken by undergraduate or taught postgraduate students in the course of their degree studies.

Central advice on the retention and destruction of data and the Data Protection Act can be obtained from the Information Compliance Officer (contact details are to be found via the Information Compliance webpages).