There are two types of records associated with research projects: administrative records and research records, including data. The length of time records are retained varies according to a number of factors, such as the type of record and the type of research. In general, for internal research, the department or school/college funding the research project should retain the official copy of administrative records for a period of six years after the termination of the project and the PI should retain a copy for three years. Research records and data should generally be retained by the Principal Investigator (PI) for six years after the termination of the project. There are many exceptions to these general retention schedules (with times varying from one to thirty years), so a careful review of applicable policy and guidance is recommended.
Follow records retention guidance from the UW Records Management Services.
Review records guidance for research grants and contracts.
- The Principal Investigator (PI) has primary responsibility for retaining research records, including data.
- The PI should confirm that the department or school/college funding the research is retaining administrative records.
- The department or school/college funding the research is primarily responsible for retaining administrative records.
- Do not discard or destroy any administrative or research records without determining the appropriate retention period.
- Consult available resources, such as published guidance from the University’s office of Records Management Services.
- Establish a record retention schedule for all records associated with a particular research project and discard or destroy records at the time and by the method prescribed.
Because there is no external sponsor, sponsor requirements for record retention do not apply to internal research. It should be noted that some researchers retain research records, including data, longer than required or indefinitely.
Requirements for Human Subjects Research
UW researchers must comply with the Washington State records retention requirements as outlined at UW Records Management website for Research and Grant/Contract Records. Note that identifiers are usually considered to be research data and therefore must be retained for the full retention period (i.e., they cannot be destroyed). Consent forms should not promise to destroy identifiers (or links between identifiers and research data) before the end of the retention period.
In cases where sponsor requirements and any other applicable requirement conflict, the longest retention time specified should be observed. It should be noted that some researchers retain research records, including data, longer than required or indefinitely.