Research data will typically be stored, managed and shared during a project, but may also need to be retained longer for a variety of reasons. This guidance will help you understand some of the factors that influence the length of the retention period for data, so you can make the correct decisions when planning, selecting storage and depositing data.
Storing data costs money, as shown by the costing tool provided by the UK Data Archive. Extended data retention periods may have some additional costs that will impact your project directly or they may be covered by the full economic costing included in your proposal. Invariably data retention periods will outlive projects, so you may want to consider how this will be funded as part of your data management plan and/or in your proposal – check with your funder’s guidelines. In some cases the costs and benefits of data storage and retention decisions may need to be assessed and justified for funding purposes. The KRDS (Keeping Research Data Safe) Benefits Analysis Toolkit may be used for this.
It is not a requirement that all research data must be held within the University, although iSolutions do provide secure storage for active research data. The data stored within this facility is regularly backed up and a copy of the back-up, regularly off-sited to a secure location for disaster recovery purposes. Each faculity is allocated a certain amount of storage although extra storage can be bought. See our guide on isolutions secure storage for more information.
At the end of the research project, in a timely manner and in accordance with any funding requirements, research data should be deposited in an appropriate institutional or disciplinary data repository.
You can deposit small datasets (gigabytes in size) in ePrints Soton for long-term storage. If your data is a terrabyte or over in size, contact email@example.com to discuss how to deposit your data. For further guidance see Depositing data.
You can request a DOI for your dataset to include in the funder acknowledgement and data access statement in your publications and we can organise this. Ideally you should request the DOI prior to submitting your manuscript. See DOI for Data.
You may be able to publish your data in a data journal. This is a growing and fast moving area. Some publishers are now requiring the deposit of supporting data with the article, while others require that a link to the data is provided. You will need to take this into account when considering how long you will need to retain the data and may influence your choice of storage location.
Discipline specific repositories and funder requirements may mean that research data will be held elsewhere. You should consider what services you may require to meet the retention requirements applicable to your data.
Deciding what to retain and what to destroy at the end of a project can be tricky. How long you retain your data will vary from discipline to discipline. You may have your own view on how long you need or want to retain data. This will be influenced by the discipline you are working in, the type of data created and whether further work or publications will be based on it. Factors that may influence retention include:
The University of Southampton Research Data Management Policy has a requirement that all significant research data should be held for a minimum of 10 years. This may be longer where the data is actively used. Where you are unsure what data might need to be held you should seek discipline specific advice from your supervisor or Faculty Head of Research as appropriate.
See more information about retention.
It is important that, as well as planning for the curation of your data, you give consideration to how it will be destroyed where this is required for legal or other reasons. Guidance on when and who authorises the destruction of research data is covered in our section on Retention Periods and in the University Research Data Management Policy.
See more information on destruction of data.