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Research Data Management Resources

How Long Do I Retain Data?

Data retention is complex. In many cases there are overlapping policies and statutes that span the research and funding offices of the institution, the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Intellectual Property (IP) Office, the sponsor of the research, publishers, and state and federal law. Thus, there are several factors to consider for determining how long to hold on to research data, and financial and administrative data, associated with a research project. You are advised to consult the PI, the Office of Research, the IRB, the funder and/or IP as appriopriate before destroying any of a project's data.

  • Are there records management schedules that apply to the financial and administrative data?
  • Is there an institutional policy that pertains to the retention of research data?
  • Does the data contain any personal identifiers for human subjects?
  • Do you have control and ownership of the data?
  • Is this data a product of sponsored research? If so, does the funder have a data retention policy?
  • Would the data be of lasting significance to the institution and a candidate for Archives and Special Collections?
  • Does the publisher of any works based on the data have a requirement for retention?
  • Does the data need to be kept to defend any potential challenges to the project outcomes or retraction of its publications?
  • Does the data have value to inform your future projects?
  • Does the data have value and the potential to inform others' future projects?
  • Is the data related to a patent or other form of intellectual property?

Retention Issues

The following briefly describes retention problems that might arise in the management of research, financial, or administrative data.

  • Technical data not recorded properly.
  • Technical data management not supervised by the PI.
  • Data not maintained at the institution.
  • Financial or administrative data not maintained properly.
  • Data not stored properly.
  • Data not held in accordance with retention requirements.
  • Data not retained by the institution after a researcher leaves the institution and takes the original research data and does not leave a copy at the institution.

From Erickson, Stephen and Karen M.T. Muskavitch. 2013. Office of Research Integrity. Department of Health and Human Services.

UMass Medical Contacts

Institutional Review Board for questions about retaining human subjects data

Office of Technology Management for questions about retaining data related to patents and intellectual property

Office of Research for questions about institutional requirements related to data retention

Research Funding Services for questions about sponsored research data retention policies and records management schedules for administrative and financial data

eScholarship at UMass Medical for contacting a librarian and finding information about depositing your data in the institutional repository at UMMS

Office of Medical History and Archives for contacting a specialist to discuss archiving data