Data Retention

Must all tangible research materials be retained for a minimum of 7 years?

Under certain circumstances, tangible research materials may be destroyed in advance of the seven year retention period. Investigators should maintain tangible research materials, such as research animals, biologic specimens, cell lines, and environmental samples, in accordance with the accepted practice of their own academic specialty or particular research community, or consistent with the terms of a sponsored research agreement, whichever is more rigorous in terms of retention period and/ or requirements. If tangible research materials are destroyed in advance of the customary seven...

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What are "essential" Research Records?

"Essential" Research Records are those Research Records integral to substantiating grant applications or demonstrating compliance with contractual terms, if sponsored research; substantiating published research and patents, whether or not the research is sponsored; substantiating research described in grant proposals and other funding requests; and scholarship that should be considered for long-term preservation and access by the University Archives or the local archives of Schools.

Essential research records also include any research data or materials designated as essential by...

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What are Research Data and Materials?

Research Data and Materials include recorded, tangible, or intangible research information, regardless of form or the media on which it may be recorded, that is created or collected in the process of performing research, whether supported by University resources or by external funders. Research Data and Materials include, but are not limited to, computer software (computer programs, computer databases, and documentation thereof), materials such as unmodified and modified biological specimens, new or modified chemical entities, laboratory notebooks, notes of any type, materials submitted to...

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What are research records?

Research Records include Research Data and Materials (defined below), as well as documents, materials and information that relate to: administrative, financial, and human resource management of research, reporting of research results, and sponsored award applications. This includes, but is not limited to, financial, administrative, cost or pricing, or other management information that has been gathered or used to apply for or support specific  research activities, such as grant proposals, progress reports, and communications with funders. Forms in which Research Records may appear can...

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Who Must Comply with the Retention and Maintenance of Research Records Principles?

All Principal Investigators ("PIs") and all Harvard University faculty, other academic appointees, staff, students, visitors and any other individuals involved in the design, conduct, reporting, or financial and other administration of research at Harvard University Schools, local units, and University-wide initiatives must comply with the Principles and attendant guidance contained in these FAQs.

Do the Principles governing the retention and maintenance of Research Records apply to research conducted with Harvard's own funds?

Yes. Harvard's legal responsibilities with respect to access and retention of data generated by research extend to research conducted with Harvard's own funds, as well as to research conducted with funds received by Harvard from federal or other sources. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Complying with federal and University requirements regarding the conduct of research, such as ensuring the appropriate use of animals, human subjects, recombinant DNA, radioactive materials, "select agents," etc,;
  • Ensuring that research is conducted...
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