1.9 Retention of and Access to Research Data

Establishes University policy to assure that research data is appropriately recorded, archived for a reasonable period of time, and available for review under the appropriate circumstances.


Senate of the Academic Council, upon recommendation of the Committee on Research


Questions about this policy can be answered by:

Arvin, Ann Margaret


Vice Provost and Dean of Research


1. Introduction

Accurate and appropriate research records are an essential component of any research project. Both the University and the PI have responsibilities and rights concerning access to, use of, and maintenance of original research data.

Except where precluded by the specific terms of sponsorship or other agreements, tangible research property, including the scientific data and other records of research conducted under the auspices of Stanford University, belongs to Stanford. The PI is responsible for the maintenance and retention of research data in accord with this policy.

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2. Definition

Research data include laboratory notebooks, as well as any other records that are necessary for the reconstruction and evaluation of reported results of research and the events and processes leading to those results, regardless of the form or the media on which they may be recorded. Stanford must retain research data in sufficient detail and for an adequate period of time to enable appropriate responses to questions about accuracy, authenticity, primacy, and compliance with laws and regulations governing the conduct of the research. It is the responsibility of the PI to determine what needs to be retained under this policy.

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3. Applicability

This policy shall apply to all Stanford University faculty, staff, students and any other persons at Stanford involved in the design, conduct or reporting of research at or under the auspices of Stanford, and it shall apply to all research projects on which those individuals work, regardless of the source of funding for the project.

Where research is funded by a contract with Stanford that includes specific provision(s) regarding ownership, retention of and access to technical data, the provision(s) of that agreement will supersede this policy.

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4. Ownership

The University's ownership and stewardship of the scientific record for projects conducted at the University, under the auspices of the University, or with University resources are based on both Federal regulation and sound management principles. Stanford's responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • complying with the terms of sponsored project agreements
  • ensuring the appropriate use of animals, human subjects, recombinant DNA, etiological agents, radioactive materials, and the like
  • protecting the rights of students, postdoctoral scholars, and staff, including, but not limited to, their rights to access to data from research in which they participated
  • securing intellectual property rights
  • facilitating the investigation of charges, such as scientific misconduct or conflict of interest

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5. Collection and Retention

The PI is responsible for the collection, management and retention of research data. PIs should adopt an orderly system of data organization and should communicate the chosen system to all members of a research group and to the appropriate administrative personnel, where applicable. Particularly for long-term research projects, PIs should establish and maintain procedures for the protection of essential records in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.

Research data must be archived for a minimum of three years after the final project close-out, with original data retained wherever possible. In addition, any of the following circumstances may justify longer periods of retention:

  1. Data must be kept for as long as may be necessary to protect any intellectual property resulting from the work.
  2. If any charges regarding the research arise, such as allegations of scientific misconduct or conflict of interest, data must be retained until such charges are fully resolved.
  3. If a student is involved, data must be retained at least until the degree is awarded or it is clear that the student has abandoned the work.

Beyond the period of retention specified here, the destruction of the research record is at the discretion of the PI and his or her department or laboratory.

Records will normally be retained in the unit where they are produced. Research records must be retained on the Stanford campus, or in facilities under the auspices of Stanford University, unless specific permission to do otherwise is granted by the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

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6. Access

Where necessary to assure needed and appropriate access, the University has the option to take custody of the data in a manner specified by the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

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7. Transfer in the Event a Researcher Leaves Stanford

When individuals involved in research projects at Stanford leave the University, they may take copies of research data for projects on which they have worked. Original data, however, must be retained at Stanford by the PI.

If a PI leaves Stanford, and a project is to be moved to another institution, ownership of the data may be transferred with the approval of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research, and with written agreement from the PI's new institution that guarantees: 1) its acceptance of custodial responsibilities for the data, and 2) Stanford access to the data, should that become necessary.

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