Storage, preservation and availability of research materials
Research materials include, but are not limited to, materials that do not necessarily fit into the definition provided above for research data, such as biological specimens (whether unmodified and modified), new or chemical entities, gels and other physical experimental evidence, cell lines and specific reagents, and animals.
Funding agencies, reputable journals, regulatory authorities and indeed the scientific community at large, expect retention of research materials for a period of at least 5 years, ideally up to ten, after the end of a research project or activity, depending also on specific requirements imposed by such entities. In this context, a research project or activity should be considered ended after submission of (whichever is later):
- Final technical report to the funder
- Final financial report of a sponsored research award
- Final publication of research results
- Termination of activity on a research project regardless of whether results are published
- Any end date otherwise defined in the research / sponsorship / data use agreement (if any) governing the project
There may be cases where a longer retention period may be required such as in the following cases:
- Protecting intellectual property that is the subject of patent applications. Research Information associated with a patent application should be retained until the application is rejected, abandoned, or the patent is expired, whichever longer.
- Research information relative to pending litigations, internal or external investigations and other formal proceedings. For example, in the case of a research misconduct allegation, the records must be retained until the allegation is resolved, even if the process extends beyond the expected storage period.
- Compliance with applicable law in the case of studies involving human samples/clinical data (e.g. GLP studies) Strict traceability criteria must be observed for long-term storage of research materials, including clear labelling strategies to include simple look-up of owner, content, expected expiry date, etc.