Choosing what to keep

At the UNIGE, research data produced by the University's staff in the course of their duties are the property of the institution. (art.15 LU).

The Directive sur l’intégrité dans la recherche scientifique stipulates that "les données de base" (defined as "données relatives à l’avancement de la recherche et les résultats des expériences originelles") must be kept securely for at least five years after the research has been completed. It states that it is the responsibility of the project leader to ensure that this is the case and that, should he/she leave the University, it will continue to be held appropriately within the University. (Guideline, point 2.6)

Beyond this period and/or for research data that would not meet this definition of "données de base", a selection may be relevant. Indeed, while it is tempting to keep everything, just in case, this implies exponential costs and makes it even more difficult to find, or discover, the truly relevant or important things.

What does selection involve?

Choosing what to keep and what can be disposed of or deleted is always going to involve a subjective judgement, as nobody knows exactly what information is going to be wanted in the future. 

Because of this subjective element, it is important that, as far as possible, the author of the data is involved in this selection process, abides by the policies that apply to his/her project (e.g. those of the funders) and scrupulously documents the decisions made and the reasons for them. It will not be a perfect process, but should at least be a sensible one. 

How do I know what to keep and what to delete?

These following questions, suggested by the University of Cambridge and based on material devised by the Digital Curation Centre, can help you decide what you should keep and what can be deleted: 

  • does my funder or the university need me to keep this data and / or make it available for a certain amount of time?
  • does this data constitute the 'vital records' of a project, organisation or consortium and therefore need to be retained indefinitely?
  • do I have the legal and intellectual property rights to keep and re-use this data? If not, can these be negotiated?
  • does sufficient documentation and descriptive information (‘metadata’) exist to explain the data, and allow the data or record to be found wherever it ends up being stored? (in other words, how FAIR is this data?)
  • if I need to pay to keep the data, can I afford it?

Once you have sorted through your files by asking yourself the above questions, you can :