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Module 3: Conducting Research Responsibly - Protecting Yourself, Your Research, and Your University

4.1 Responsible record keeping

Proper record keeping is intrinsic to the research process, and the way in which research records and data are collected and captured will reflect the nature of the research and the preference and experience of the researcher. Adequate record keeping is critical for efficient project management and documenting the integrity of research results, and may actually be a legislative requirement under records and archives Acts.

You will collect both research records and data during the course of your research project. The University of Melbourne Policy on the Management of Research Data and Records defines research records as:

“…documents containing data or information of any kind and in any form (including both paper-based and electronic format) created or received by an organisation or person for use in the course of their work and subsequently kept by that organisation or individual as evidence of that work, or because of the informational value of the data that such documents contain. Records associated with the research process include correspondence (including electronic mail as well as paper-based correspondence); project files; grant applications; ethics applications; technical reports; research reports; master lists; signed consent forms; and information sheets for research participants.”

How do you currently manage your research records? From time to time, funding bodies may audit some projects they fund at your university. Your own university or their ethics committee may also conduct project audits. If your project was audited, would you be in a position to reproduce the necessary research records that may be requested in a timely manner?

Record keeping in the active stages of your research also has legal implications and requirements. Record keeping is critical in IP considerations. Protection of IP may require the disclosure of your records and responsibly kept records continue to be important after issue of any patent. In a legal challenge, patents can be sustained or nullified after inspection of original research records.

In addition to research records, you also produce research data during the course of a project. Unless you are involved in a research process with an initially determined set of rigorous protocols for collection of the research data, how you choose to collect and protect data in the active stage of your research should be a mark of your respect for the research process and participants, and a recognition by you that this record may become a key resource for the ongoing work of your research group.

You have already familiarised yourself with the Code and will be aware that there are both institutional and individual researcher requirements for the management of research data and primary materials. Management includes the collection, retention, storage, and ultimate disposal of research data and primary materials after the specified retention period.

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