During a research project, many data are collected for which a proper storage or preservation plan has to be established that reaches beyond the project duration or after you leave ETH Zurich. The following information will help you with this. The considerations outlined below are derived from the Guidelines on Scientific Integrity (ETH Zurich document RSETHZ 414) and from the Guidelines for Research Data Management at ETH Zurich (RDMG, ETH Zurich document RSETHZ 414.2).

If your department or organisational unit provides guidelines regarding the storage or preservation of research data at the end of a research project, please adhere to those guidelines. In such a case, you can consider the document at hand as a general, supporting guide.

General Advice

The situation in different research groups can vary widely. In many cases the following steps are useful, but can and should be adjusted depending on the specific situation:

  • Create or update an inventory of your data in your research project or your research group. Useful categories are, for example: data type, data volume, current storage location, responsible person, current and future desired access rights, relevance beyond the current project. Ideally, most information is already available in the Data Management Plan (DMP) for your project.
  • Take into account the research data of all people working in the project.
  • Separate research data from private data as well as from business documents / teaching material / correspondence:
    • Move private data to a private storage location.
    • Business documents and correspondence should be retained in line with legal requirements and in case of reporting duties towards research funders to comply with these requirements. Often such documents are handed over to the research group leader, combined with information on the applicable retention period (e.g., for business documents 10 years in line with Swiss Code of Obligations, “Obligationenrecht”). The so-called intermediate archiving is usually a task of the departments.
    • Teaching material can potentially be handed over to the University Archive of the ETH Library when leaving ETH Zurich (see contacts below).

Cleaning and Storage of Research Data

Delete obsolete or temporary versions of files and of data that are not necessary for the reproduction of research results (see requirements for reproducibility in the Integrity Guidelines, Article 10) and which are not supposed to be used for additional research projects.

When storing data, ensure that the interests of ETH Zurich are safeguarded (research data that are created by employees remain at ETH Zurich, see Integrity Guidelines, Article 11(1)).

Unpublished research data that should remain available are usually kept at the department or institute. Whenever possible, rarely used data should be transferred by the local IT Support Group[1] to the cost-free “Long Term Storage (LTS)” (see IT Service catalogue) operated by IT Services. Retention periods, responsibilities and additional details must be documented in such a way that they are available together with the research data. As long as no other solution is available, such details must at least be documented in a Readme text file[2] alongside the research data. IT Services are working on storing these metadata directly in LTS.

Data Publication

It might still be relevant at the end of a project or when leaving ETH Zurich to store selected research data in a data repository (e.g., in the Research Collection or in an external repository). This step requires that there is an interest in publishing or sharing these data (perhaps even solely within ETH Zurich), that all involved persons have given their consent, and that sufficiently informative metadata are available. The following guides can help you with this endeavour:

    • A “Step-by-Step Guide on Data Publication” for ETH Zurich researchers is available at the Wiki of the ETH Library: Step-by-Step Guide on Data Publication (status as of 26.09.2022).
    • If you choose the Research Collection, ETH Zurich’s institutional repository, you can find additional instructions in the Research Collection manual. For long-term storage, the Research Collection is connected to the ETH Data Archive. In the Research Collection, publications as well as data can be published (with metadata in a suitable level of granularity); collections of data with only rudimentary data should be avoided.
    • Large datasets (e.g., 50 GB up to several TB) can be published via the libdrive service under Open Access conditions. For more information, please consult the instructions on “How to publish large datasets” in the Research Collection manual.
    • If there are still research data remaining that cannot be kept at the department and that are not suitable for a repository (see section “Regarding data publication”), it could be checked whether including them into the ETH Data Archive is an option. For this purpose, a minimum of metadata is equally necessary. Information on the context that allow to retrace the origin of the data are required.

When leaving ETH Zurich

Are you a research group leader or principal investigator (PI) and do you leave ETH Zurich? In such a case, please ensure that project employees can continue their scientific work with research data. This applies when employees move to another group at ETH Zurich as well as when they leave ETH Zurich. Generally speaking, upon the departure of staff members, a written agreement should be concluded between the professor and staff members concerning the further use of data in both cases (see Integrity Guidelines, Article 11(2)).[3]

Note that your access rights to the physical and digital infrastructure of ETH Zurich will be revoked when leaving ETH Zurich (i.e., at the end of employment). The loss of storage capabilities is particularly relevant regarding research data.

Even if your research data are already stored in the correct location, please consult with your IT Support team about how long which data are to be stored, who is to retain access rights or can obtain such rights upon request, and who will assume responsibility for the existing data and their later deletion. The agreements made must be clearly documented. If no general storage location exists for this (for example, an inventory within the department), the agreements should be documented in Readme files stored with the relevant data.

In some cases, an interested colleague or subsequent member of the research group may assume responsibility following the conclusion of a suitable agreement and may decide to meet the costs for additional storage on a faster, chargeable storage medium. Such agreements must also be documented.

Contact and Consulting

For further questions regarding data management please check library.ethz.ch/rdm or contact us at data-management@library.ethz.ch.

For specific questions regarding the Research Collection as ETH Zurich’s institutional repository or the libdrive service for publishing large datasets, please see the Research Collection manual or contact research-collection@library.ethz.ch.

For questions regarding the departmental Long Term Storage (LTS), please contact the responsible support group at your department.

For preservation of documents such as teaching material, or other data that are not research data, if required, you could clarify if these are relevant for including them in the University Archive of ETH Zurich: archivalservices@library.ethz.ch.

Endnotes

[1] A contact list is available at the list of contacts at ETH Zurich departments (status 26.09.2022).

[2] This Wiki also offers a guide for writing README text files.

[3] Templates for an agreement on employees leaving a research group (English and German) can be found amon the list of documents provided by the ETH Legal service (status 26.09.2022)

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