Organize data storage and retention

You will be working on your thesis over an extended period and accumulating a huge volume of lab books, data files, notes, drafts, and, depending on your discipline, graphic materials. Assign clear titles and dates to all your electronic files and back them up on an external drive. (At the end of writing your thesis, you may be required to give a copy of all your data to your supervisor, so you want to preserve and keep this material organized as you work.)

Original primary data/evidence must be retained by the laboratory or unit in which they are generated. With the knowledge and authorization of the principal investigator, a member of the research team may make copies of the primary data for his or her own use, but the immediate supervisor and all collaborators must have free access at any time to all original data/evidence and products of the research. Authorization to make copies may not be withheld without valid reasons, which must be communicated in writing to the dean of the faculty or, in cases involving graduate students, to the dean of the FGPS.

All primary data should be promptly recorded in clear, adequate, original and permanent form which should not leave the laboratory or unit at any time. These records must be kept for at least five years, unless determined otherwise by the immediate supervisor. All permanent records must remain in the research unit upon departure of the investigator from the University. Alternative arrangements for copies rather than original records to be kept by the University must be made with the immediate supervisor.

When a principal investigator leaves the University, arrangements for the safekeeping of records and/or products must be made with the immediate superior.

Provision of material products—cell lines, bacterial clones, other specific organisms and substances, or software developed and prepared during research—to third parties for non-commercial research purposes within or outside the unit should only be made with the approval of the principal investigator or the immediate supervisor.

For more information, please speak with your supervisor and consult the ethics booklet on the Office of the Vice-Provost, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Web site. 

Students and their supervisors must also discuss and arrange for storage of data once the data collection is complete, including where the data should be kept (on or off campus), and the safe transfer of data from one site to another (whether this is done electronically or physically).

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