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Research Data Management Toolkit: Retention/Disposal

Best practices in Research Data Management promote research integrity and collaborative opportunities. A Data Management Plan ensures data security, accessibility and validation of results.

Retention and disposal

Once an appraisal for disposal or long-term preservation has occurred, research data must be securely retained or discarded as outlined by the Research Data Management Plan.

There are many benefits to the research data evaluation process which results from the decision to retain or dispose of data. These include:

Retention and destruction of research data

Research data must be retained in order to satisfy:

  • researcher needs in the current research climate;
  • future research needs; and
  • compliance with policies, funding agency guidelines, publisher requirements or contracts.

The appropriate data preservation format should be selected for each research dataset. Digitisation of print data may also need to be considered for long term preservation purposes.

Minimum retention periods

Longer minimum retention periods may be necessary for certain types of research data, for example:

  • data which has long-term impacts on the particular field of research, such as a shift in the paradigm;
  • data which has high public interest; and
  • data which is instrumental in the establishment of intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks or copyright.

If the research data is a candidate for long-term retention, researchers must make allowances for storage costs, metadata maintenance and human ethics requirements early in research data management planning.

For minimum retention periods please refer to:

In accordance with University obligations under the State Records Act 2000, destruction of research data, regardless of format, created and kept by staff at UWA cannot be undertaken without first receiving authorisation to do so from the University Archivist as delegate of the Vice-Chancellor.

Before conducting any destruction of research data it is recommended first to consult the WAUSDA Quick Reference Guide to make sure your data has passed the minimum required retention period.  If, according the quick reference guide, the data can be legally destroyed you must complete a Destruction Certificate and forward the certificate to the University Archivist for approval.

The University Archivist will confirm the minimum retention period of the research data in accordance with the WAUSDA and ensure there are no current FOI or other outstanding actions on the records before authorising the destruction.

Secure destruction of research data involves using irreversible methods to ensure that the data is no longer usable. It is particularly critical that confidential or sensitive data remains unreadable.

Once you have received formal authorisation from the University Archivist to destroy your research data it is important to destroy your data in a way that ensures the information cannot be recreated. 


Digital Data

The simple act of deleting files does not destroy the information completely. It may be necessary to utilise software which permanently erases data. Please contact the UWA Service Desk or the Librarian Support Team for assistance.

Non-Digital Data

Non-digital data should be physically destroyed using appropriate methods which are as secure and environmentally friendly as possible. Physical records must not be discarded using paper recycle bins or ordinary waste bins. Secure destruction services should be employed for the destruction of physical records, including paper and digital media such as CDs, DVDs and other media formats.

Please contact Information Governance Services for assistance in organising the provision of secure destruction services.


 Unless otherwise stated, content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence