Management and preservation
Information, data and other records produced in connection with research must be managed according to the same principles as other public records produced at SLU.
The main principle of the Archives Act (SFS 1990:782) is that research data must be preserved. The Archives Act, as well as the Act on Public Access to Information and Secrecy (OSL) require systematic organisation, easy overview and management. Research material belongs to the university and must not be dispelled, removed or disposed of without a prior decision to do so.
SLU is responsible for archiving research material. The formal responsibility at department level rests with the head of department. Appraisal (disposal) according to applicable law or regulations may be delagated to a project manager, but this should always be done in consultation with SLU’s Documentation Unit.
What is meant by research activities and research projects?
Research activities covers fundamental research, applied research and development work according to Chapter 2 Section 2 of the Higher Education Act (1992:1434). A research project is defined as a delimited research activity of limited duration, linked to a specific mission and/or specific people.
What is meant by research material (research data and other records)?
A general definition of research material is:
”Research records received or created as part of an ongoing research project or continuing research activities”.
From an information management perspective, there are four types of research records:
- Administrative, such as applications for research grants, scientific plans, method descriptions, agreements, ethical permits, project web pages etc.
- Raw data (primary material/material without added value), such as datasets of measurements from sample plots, datasets of observational data from monitoring of wild animals, sampling journals, simulation models for climate change etc. NB: Raw data must never be modified. All modifications must be documented.
- Analysis data/processed data, such as statistical processing of raw data, version management without added data. If analysis data adds information, it should be archived, making the material public.
- Results, presentation material such as articles, interim reports, financial statements, popular science publications etc.
Raw data/primary material is usually classified as one of the following:
- Observational data
- Experimental data
- Simulated data
- Compiled or derived data
- Reference data or canonical data
What legal status does research material have?
Research consists of actual acts such as taking measurements and samples. From this follows that it cannot be considered part of the university’s case handling. This means that research material will become public during the research process, and a request for data to be released can be submitted before the results have been published.
Having well organised research data from the outset is vital for the quality and reliability of the research.
The research process
The research process comprises different phases and activities. During each phase, various types of public records are created. Each phase needs to follow the applicable rules for information management and archiving. The phases are e.g. planning, collection, analysis, evaluation, dissemination/publication of results, financial statements and follow-up.
All public records must be managed and archived according to the legislation in force. Appraisal may only be done if this is provided for in an act or regulation. Any individual agreements stating otherwise are not valid at SLU, as the university is obligated to follow the regulations stipulated by the National Archives of Sweden in RA-FS (National Archives Statutes) and RA-MS (National Archives Regulations for Authorities).
Appraisal and disposal of research records are described in RA-FS 1991:1, National Archives regulations and advice for appraisal of records in government authorities’ research activities and and RA-MS 2013: 7 for records in clinical operations with a research connection.
The appraisal rules are media independent, and must be applied in the same way to paper documents as to electronic databases or datasets. Appraisal and disposal may only take place after the period prescribed and must always be documented.
Exceptions from appraisal and disposal
The following records are always exempt from appraisal and disposal:
- information on aim, method and results in research projects
- material with a lasting intra- or interdisciplinary value
- records with significant scientific, cultural or historic value, or of significant interest to the public
To consider appraisal and disposal according to the legislation in force, the following should be taken into account:
- The research findings are registered and have been published
- Enough time has passed to make it possible to review and verify the findings
- Is it possible to gain insight into the research
- Re-use is possible
- The financial reporting has been concluded
Each department or equivalent unit is responsible for archiving its research material. Always follow the central procedures for information management available on the staff web.
The head of department is ultimately responsible for archiving, with operational support offered by the Documentation Unit. The person responsible for registry and archiving at the department supports the actual work.
Coworkers and doctoral students taking part in a research project are responsible for documenting and controlling information management by drafting plans for data management, publishing and preservation.
Check list for preservation and appraisal/disposal
Records that must be preserved
- Project plans, method and project descriptions, individual study plans
- Ethical guidelines, applications for and decisions on permits
- Correspondence with funders
- Minutes or other documentation from meetings with the steering or reference group, budget meetings etc.
- Grant applications
- Contracts and decisions on funding
- Any other administrative records necessary to the project: agreements on taking part in trials, purchasing instruments etc.
- Correspondence with publishers – peer review
- Supporting documents for seminars and conferences (not posters)
- Email correspondence, research blogs, tweets or other social media used for research
- Interim reports
- Final reports
- Conference proceedings
- Publications, including popular science
- List of publications
- Press releases
- Financial and research reports to sponsors and funders
- Financial statement at the end of the project
Records/research data created during data collection and analysis (raw data/primary material and processed material) must always be evaluated and the preservation period decided according to the criteria below:
LEVEL 1 (permanently preserved)
When? If raw data/primary material:
- belongs to a long-term project and the data will be reused
- has a lasting intradisciplinary value
- is of value to another discipline
- is of scientific, cultural or historic value
- is judged to be of considerable interest to the public
When? If processed material:
- is needed to understand contexts, adds information or is needed to interpret research findings
LEVEL 2 (archived for 10–20 years)
When? Raw data and processed material:
- are to be preserved for as long as they are needed to verify the research findings. The appraisal period in such cases is 10, 15 or 20 years as decided by the university.
LEVEL 3 (preserved for the duration of the project only)
When? Data and other material:
- when the level 1 and level 2 criteria are not applicable, and in accordance with SLU’s decisions and document management plan for research material.
Test your knowledge
- Is modifying raw data allowed?
- Can analysis data/processed data be public?
- For how long must research results and raw data be preserved?
- Is it possible to dispose of research data?
- Can you take your research data with you if you move to a different university?
- How should research material be managed?
- How can you guarantee the authenticity and availability of material over time?
- Who is responsible for archiving research data?