Preserve Your Physical Research Data

Preservation refers to the managed activities needed to ensure continued access to data for as long they are required to be kept.

Some research data is unique and cannot be replaced if destroyed or lost. Sometimes you are legally required to retain and look after data for many years after the project funding has ceased.

The measures you put in place through your data management plan to maintain data integrity (e.g. secure storage, appropriate metadata to ensure its discoverability, and appropriate access provisions) will help you protect and maintain access to the evidence of your work.


Massey University’s Code of Responsible Research Conduct (p. 9) says it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine what records and data should either be kept or securely disposed of, in line with any requirements set out in law, funding agreements, publisher’s agreements or through disciplinary conventions.

What Data Must You Keep?

While it may not be practical to preserve all the primary material (such as ore, biological material, questionnaires or recordings), you must retain certain types of research data and records of research activities for compliance reasons and to ensure you can continue to validate your research results.

You should adhere to the retention periods that relate to your data. After the retention period is over, you may choose to archive or dispose of your data.

Retention periods vary depending upon the data and upon the research to which it relates. Retention requirements are specified in:

Further advice:

Data Preservation Options

Data that is stored on physical formats will deteriorate, whether on paper, photographic, digital or audio visual formats. While the rate of deterioration will differ, the lifespan of your physical data will depend on the preservation actions you apply.

You can preserve paper-based data by carrying out safe handling, transporting, display and storage in a controlled storage environment.

Digital data stored on physical formats (i.e. film or magnetic media) are particularly vulnerable to environmental conditions and format changes, and need extra care.

The National Library of New Zealand’s Preservation Office has a number of short guides on preserving different kinds of physical media, including disaster recovery advice.

The National Archives of Australia also provides format-specific preservation advice.

Preserve Your Research Data Tool Kit

Researcher Development

Contact Us

Research Data Management Librarian
Guidance, training opportunities and practical support.

Research Development Team
Data management (funder retention requirements) advice for current and future research projects.

Information Technology Services (ITS)
Data-related services and advice on storage, backup, security, data quality, and metadata identification. Limited software for home installation.

Contact a Subject Librarian
Personal research help by email, phone, or appointment.


These guidelines are informed by information provided under open licenses by other organisations including:

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