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Storage and ownership of research material

Picture Storage and ownership of research material

In general, authorities' documents are public (Tryckfrihetsförordning; Freedom of the Press Act's Chapter 2, 3§) and are to be archived according to the archives law (SFS 1990:782), archives ordinance (SFS 1991:446) and the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (SFS 2009:400). According to The (Swedish) National Archives, a research project is an "actual handling" and documents are therefore filed and established as public documents, according to the Freedom of the Press Act's Chapter 2. The archive law's basic principle (3§) is that the authorities' archives belong to the national cultural heritage and are to provide for, among other things, the right to examine public documents as well as the needs of research.

Archiving and deleting

For the authorities, storage of documents is the rule and deletion an exception. Storage or archiving in short means that documents are to be stored for as long as possible, from the perspective "for all eternity". Deletion means the destruction of public documentation, or of information therein. If a document is to be deleted it should be made clear as to the point in time at which it is to be destroyed. The principle provisions regarding deletion can be found in the archive law's 10§, which states that public documents may be sorted out, as well as in the National Archives' regulations and general advice on deletion of documents of temporary or minor importance (RA-FS 1997:6). As concerns deletion, one should always bear in mind that archives comprise a part of the cultural heritage, and in that light provide for the goals stated in the archive law's 3§. Further, it is established in RA-FS 1997:4 that an authority is to continuously investigate the conditions of deletion. The fundamental document for government research is the National Archives' regulations and general advice on deletion of documents in governmental authorities' research work (RA-FS 1999:1). It states:

6§ Documents containing fundamental information on the aims, methods and results of a research project shall always be exempted from deletion.

General Advice. Documents reflecting a project's context as regards, for example, economic conditions and external contacts should also be exempted from deletion, and any changes in direction during the project should also be shown… If it is not possible to distinguish individual research projects, for example in cases of continual basic research, these regulations can be applied to appropriate parts.

7§ In addition to what is stated in 6§, documents shall be exempted from deletion if judged to have a continued worth within the applicable field or other fields, to be of great scientific-, culture- or personal-historical worth, or to be of great public interest.

According to 8§, before one decides on a time for deletion, a reasonable amount of time must have passed, allowing for the possibility to review documents to verify research results. The National Archives' authority-specific regulations concerning deletion and other handling of archives can be found in RA-MS.

The National Archives has issued further rules on the submittal of archive material. Besides the archive law and ordinance, they rest on the ordinance on delivery of public documents to bodies other than the authorities for storage (SFS 1994:1495). Furthermore, every authority normally has its own archiving regulations that the researcher should become familiar with. RA-FS 1997:4 establishes an authority's responsibility to continuously plan and steer its archives' delimitation and organisation. At most universities/colleges, each department constitutes its own archive entity.

The Personal Data Act states that the party responsible for personal data is to ensure that the data are not stored for a longer period of time than is necessary, considering the purpose of processing these specific personal data. In the publication Hur länge får personuppgifter bevaras? (How long can personal data be stored?), the Swedish Data Inspection Board offers information on how this regulation should be understood.

More specific regulations

There can also be more specific regulations for a certain research field. As regards documents from clinical testing of pharmaceuticals, the Swedish Medical Products Agency's LVFS 2003:6 decrees that the length of time for archiving is to conform to applicable rules and shall be at least ten years after examination is complete and the final report is available.

Note that contradictory requirements regarding storage and destruction can be placed in the Swedish Data Inspection Board's regulations (see Handling Personal Information), the archive law (SFS 1990:782), the National Archives' regulations, the patient data law (SFS 2008:355), the law on personal data (SFS 1998:204), LVFS 2003:6 and the International regulations. Recommendations are in place in The EU Clinical Trials Directive and in Good Clinical Practice, discussed further in Guidelines for Retention of Clinical Trial Records at Investigator Study Sites (EFGCP). A careful examination of these regulations should be performed before data are destroyed. Also note that the physical material that belongs to a research project in principle is the property of the employer!

As regards information registered in ADP media, guidance is provided by the National Archives' regulations and general advice (RA-FS 1994:2) on recordings for automatic data processing. However, RA-FS 1999:1 applies regardless of the media used.

Last updated: 2012-01-02

Rules & guidelines

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