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Research records

How to manage research records

Researchers should keep full and accurate records of research projects. These records will:

  • Demonstrate good research practice and strengthen the reliability of research evidence;
  • Safeguard researchers and the City, University of London from allegations of research misconduct;
  • Protect intellectual property rights;
  • Demonstrate compliance with Data Protection Act 1998;
  • Demonstrate effective practices and procedures (including financial management) to internal and external auditors and external sponsors.)

What types of records should be kept?

  • Records relating to the administration and financial management of the project (e.g. grant applications, purchase and sales invoices, orders, delivery notes, petty cash vouchers and supporting accounting records).
  • Records of procedures followed and results obtained, including interim results (e.g. protocol documents, risk assessments).
  • Data generated in the course of research (e.g. interview transcripts; diaries; field notes; observational recordings; audio tapes; audio-visual recordings; photographs; press clippings; personal documents; and databases of quantitative data).
  • Records relating to the administration and financial management of the project (e.g. grant applications, purchase and sales invoices, orders, delivery notes, petty cash vouchers and supporting accounting records).

Who is responsible for keeping the records while they are active?

Responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and security of research evidence during a project should lie with the principal investigator. Extra care should be taken to ensure the security of research material containing personal data, which is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Where and in what format should they be stored?

  • Following the completion of a research project, the research project's records should be stored in a secure environment that enables continued access to the required records regardless of their format or medium.
  • Personal information should be stored separately from data.
  • Locked filing cabinets should be used to hold paper documents, with controlled access to these. Consideration should be given to fireproof safes or proper archival storage facilities.
  • All personal information must be encoded or anonymised as far as is possible and consistent with the needs of the study, and as early as possible after collection. Guidance is available on the Information Commissioner's Office website.
  • Data should be stored in a way that permits a complete retrospective audit if necessary.
  • Data should be stored safely, with appropriate contingency plans.
  • Data records should be monitored regularly to ensure their completeness and accuracy.
  • In clinical studies, consent forms should be kept securely with the raw data, and normally for the same period of time.
  • Supervisors should regularly (monthly or as appropriate to the nature of the work) review and "sign-off" notebooks of researchers to signify that records are complete and accurate. Queries should be discussed immediately with the individual who recorded the data and any resultant changes to the records should be signed by both. Authentication of data collected and recorded electronically requires special consideration.

Researchers should familiarise themselves with City's Data Protection Policy. The Data Protection Act 1998 details how personal data may legally be used. Research Data must be dealt with in accordance with the Act, subject to the exemptions set out in Section 33. Further information is available on our Information Compliance pages. Information on retention of records is available to download here.

It is the Information Commissioner's view that all personal information transported on laptops or memory devices should be encrypted.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.