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Active disposal of research data: what you need to know and do before you push delete

13 FEB 2024

Collaborative session notes

Submitted by Jitka Stilund Hansen

Meeting objectives: 

Modern research institutions face uncontrolled expansion and indefinite retention of uncurated (.able) digital content associated with research activities that lead to unmanaged risk, unsustainable cost, and unrealised benefit. The goal of the BoF is to gather interest for a Research Data Retention and Disposal Working Group (WG). During this BoF, we intend to propose different formats and relevant content for the work of such a WG.

We propose to collect information on existing (national) policies, strategies and solutions directly addressing data retention and disposal. Such landscaping could include perspectives from different stakeholders or levels: national archives, legislation, national strategies and domain-specific guidelines.

Work may already be ongoing on national or organisational level, for example, to assess the preservation rationale for research data (1). Therefore, identifying actors involved in creating preservation and explicit disposal policies is also relevant. A few initiatives on organisational level were presented at the IDW 2023, therefore creating a knowledge base for organisational solutions (actors, governance, infrastructures) may be of help to organisations wishing to create their own solutions.

With regard to the handling of (extensive) dormant research data, it is important to differentiate between whether these are in the infrastructure and responsibility of the original data-generating institution, or whether they were deposited in a dedicated repository in a subsequent step.

The work of the WG can take a differentiated view and address both possibilities.

We would also like to present a possible co-creation initiative of the WG. The WG could develop a workshop that helps institutions identify the stakeholders, governance, infrastructure, policies, national laws etc. needed to support the identification, evaluation and development of intentional disposal procedures. The outcome of such a workshop is to create a framework for decision-making at an organisational level. The knowledge gained from conducting such workshops at different institutions would feed back to the WG, creating a “wiki” or growing knowledge base to be openly distributed and/or to result in a template for data disposal guidelines.

Based on the above suggestions, a case statement of the proposed WG is presented at the BoF session.

References: see “Additional links” below

Meeting agenda: 

Type of Meeting: 

Informative meeting

Short introduction describing any previous activities: 

Following the session at the International Data Week 2023 “Research Data Architectures in Research Institutions IG: Data Retention and Disposal infrastructure and policies”, we are exploring the interest in establishing a Research Data Retention and Disposal WG. The IDW session identified wishes and needs for sharing policies, infrastructures and tools to support research-performing organisations in developing their own strategies for data retention and disposal.

In 1997, the German Science Foundation (DFG) published “Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice”, which included […]: “Primary data as the basis for publications shall be securely stored for ten years in a durable form in the institution of their origin.” Together with activities from the librarian and archival sector this creates an existing community of practice with recommendations and guidelines of differing granularity and practical implementation.

In 2023, an Australian Research Data Commons-partnered project performed a landscape review of the Australian legislation and institutional policies that govern data retention and disposal actions.

BoF applicant serving as contact person: 

Jitka Stilund Hansen

Additional links to informative material: 

  1. Uddannelses,- og Forskningsstyrelsen. (2024). Remit and Terms of Reference for the Reference group for the implementation of the National Strategy for Data Management Based on the FAIR Principles. Zenodo.
  2. German Research Foundation (DFG), Committee on Scientific Library Services and and Information Systems, Subcommittee on Information Management, Recommendations for Secure Storage and Availability of Digital Primary Research Data (German Research Foundation (DFG), January 2009), accessed February 12, 2024,
  3. Business Intelligence and Reporting of Research Data:
  4. Retention and Disposal of Research Data: from current to best practices:

Meeting presenters: 

David Jung, Witold Arndt, Jitka Stilund Hansen, Luc Betbeder-Matibet

Avoid conflict with the following group (1): 

Research Data Architectures in Research Institutions IG

Avoid conflict with the following group (2): 

Data policy standardisation and implementation IG

Contact for group (email):

Driven by RDA Organisational Member: 


Please indicate at least (3) three breakout slots that would suit your meeting.: 

Please indicate a minimum of (3) three breakout slot (s) that would suit your repeat session in a different time zone.: 

Are you willing to host a second, repeat session in a different time zone?: 


Have you previously held a session at plenaries?: