We implement confidentiality and security standards for the collection, retention and disposal of research data that comply with statutory, ethical and funding body requirements. We’re also committed to optimising the benefits of research by making data accessible so it can be of benefit to the academic and wider community.
The management of research data is an essential component of all research. All guidelines and procedures implemented by Swinburne meet the requirements of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code) — jointly developed and issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia — and should be read in conjunction with Swinburne’s People, culture and integrity policy that outlines the regulatory and policy framework for academic conduct at Swinburne.
Our guidelines and procedures provide practical advice for researchers to achieve compliance with the Code, which assigns responsibility for the ownership, storage and retention, access to and sharing of research data to researchers and their institutions.
Swinburne expects staff, students and visitors engaged in research to:
- observe the highest standards of the responsible conduct of research
- embrace the highest ethical, professional and scholarly standards in research
- demonstrate intellectual honesty
- promote a strong research culture
- meet responsibilities to the research community and the public
- protect the rights, dignity, health, safety and privacy of individual research participants and the wider community
- strive to ensure that the benefits of research results are passed on to other researchers, professional practitioners and the wider community
- emphasise quality and originality
- be open to scrutiny and debate of research methods and results.
The management of research data should be consistent with the above principles and expectations. Swinburne recognises the value of data generated through research and the importance of that data to justify — and defend when necessary — the outcomes of research.
Swinburne is committed to:
- maintaining the integrity of research data
- clarifying standards for secure data retention
- optimising the benefits of research through collecting, storing and making research data accessible in such a way that it can be used in future by members of the community
- establishing guidelines for retention and disposal of research data and records that accord with legal, statutory, ethical, professional and funding body requirements.
For more information about academic conduct please visit the Swinburne Policies and Regulations page.
Laboratory notebook guidelines
As per the Code, anyone involved in research is responsible for retaining clear, accurate and complete records of all research and, where possible, must allow access and reference to these records by interested parties.
The purpose of a laboratory notebook is to provide a record with sufficient detail to enable anyone with a certain level of expertise to be able to understand what was done. Laboratory notebooks can be vital in establishing ownership of intellectual property, verifying procedures and avoiding claims of scientific misconduct. Good record-keeping also ensures that you have an accurate record of your studies, which can help you write your thesis or next paper.
A good laboratory notebook does not need to be wordy but it should be comprehensive and unambiguous. There should be enough information included so that experiments can be independently reproduced based on what was recorded. The notebook should be bound and have consecutively numbered pages, such as the notebooks available at the Swinburne Bookstore. If an electronic notebook is used then you must ensure that it’s possible to identify who created each entry and the date of its creation, as well as ensure that the entries can’t be amended without a record of that amendment.
Laboratory notebooks remain the property of Swinburne and must remain at Swinburne even if you leave the University. In each laboratory a logbook should be kept of the various notebook numbers, locations and where any other files or data (electronic or otherwise) relating to the notebooks are stored.
- Laboratory notebooks should be sequentially numbered.
- Entries should be made in ink, not pencil.
- Correction fluid or erasers should never be used, and pages must never be removed from the laboratory notebook.
- The date should be entered on each page of the notebook.
- The title and purpose of experiment as well as details of the experimental plan should be stated.
- Equipment involved should be listed.
- All personnel involved in the experiment (including external participants and other lab members) should be listed.
- Any non-standard abbreviations must be clarified.
- Results should be entered as soon as possible after they are obtained.
- Any photographs or other printed documents should be included.
- Any data (electronic or hardcopy) that is kept separately from the notebook should have its location and type of storage clearly indicated in the notebook.
- Any photographs or other printed documents that are included should be signed across the border to indicate that they have not been added at a later date.
- If a mistake is made, a line should be drawn through the incorrect entry and a dated notation should be made regarding why the entry was incorrect. Correction fluid or erasers should never be used, and pages must never be removed from the laboratory notebook.
- Blank sections or pages should have a single diagonal line drawn through them.
- Each page should be signed by the researcher and, if possible, signed by a witness who observed the experiment.
Movement and disposal of data
Any researchers who will be leaving Swinburne should start developing an exit strategy with their supervisors and immediate collaborators at least one month before leaving. This exit strategy should ensure that any data leaving the University is also archived at Swinburne as well as clearly stating who is responsible for the ongoing management and, if relevant, the dissemination of the data. An effective exit strategy also helps with meeting legal and ethical requirements for human research and biohazardous data.
Retention policies for ethics-approved and NHMRC-funded research
Data needs to be securely retained and then securely disposed of or destroyed when no longer needed or if there is a legal requirement that it be deleted when the retention period lapses. How long the data or material needs to be retained depends on the type of research or data. Research data should be retained for as long as there is need for referral to the data — for example, to justify or defend the research or to satisfy legislative or some other standard.
- For most research, the minimum recommended standard is five years from the date of any published or reportable outcome based on the data.
- For short-term projects that will not lead to published outcomes and are only for assessment purposes, the minimum period should be sufficient to cover the assessment period (including any appeals in case of dispute). A minimum period of 12 months after the completion of the project is deemed sufficient.
- For health research, the minimum period is seven years after last usage or service provision, or five years after any research outcome based on the data, whichever is longer. Health records legislation may be relevant here and researchers may need to be aware of this.
- For identifiable health research data involving minors, the data may need to be retained until the individuals turn 25 years of age, or five years after any research outcome based on the data, whichever is longer.
- For adverse incidents occurring during or as a result of the research that have health implications, the standard applying to health records should be followed.
- For most clinical trials, at least those involving substances being administered to individuals, retaining research data for 15 years or more may be necessary.
- For research data for areas such as gene therapy, the retention period should be permanent.
- For research data that has heritage or community value, archival standards would apply, preferably in a national collection
- You may also need to be aware of other applicable standards and requirements. For example, if you have approval to include a voluntary prize draw or lottery, this would then mean you need to satisfy the record-keeping requirements under gaming regulations as well.
Have further questions?
For any ethics and integrity-related queries about data management, please contact the Research Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety office via email@example.com.
For data management advice regarding ARC and NHMRC applications, please contact the Research Funding and Operations team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any IT-related queries about data storage, please contact the Swinburne IT Service Desk via email@example.com.
For faculty-specfic, research data management queries, please contact:
- FBL: FBLResearch@swinburne.edu.au
- FHAD: FHADResearch@swinburne.edu.au
- FSET: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you a Swinburne researcher?
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Contact us for more information
If you would like to know more about our research integrity and ethics processes, please email email@example.com or call Ann Gaeth, Research Integrity Coordinator, on +61 3 9214 8356.