Primary data as the basis for publications shall be securely stored for ten years in a durable form in the institution of their origin.

A scientific finding normally is a complex product of many single working steps. In all experimental sciences, the results reported in publications are generated through individual observations or measurements adding up to preliminary findings. Observation and experiment, as well as numerical calculation (used as an independent method or to support data analysis), first produce 'data'. The same is true for empirical research in the social sciences.

Experiments and numerical calculations can only be repeated if all important steps are reproducible. For this purpose, they must be recorded.

Every publication based on experiments or numerical simulations includes an obligatory chapter on “materials and methods” summing up these records in such a way that the work may be reproduced in another laboratory. Again, comparable approaches are common in the social sciences, where it has become more and more customary to archive primary survey data sets in an independent institution after they have been analyzed by the group responsible for the survey.

Being able to refer to the original records is a necessary precaution for any group if only for reasons of working efficiency. It becomes even more important when published results are challenged by others. Therefore every research institute applying professional standards in its work has a clear policy for retaining research records and for the storage of primary data and data carriers, even when this is not obligatory on legal or comparable grounds following regulations laid down e.g. in German laws on medical drugs, on recombinant DNA technology, on animal protection, or in professional codes such as Good Clinical Practice. In the USA it is customary that such policies require the storage of primary data (with the possibility of access by third parties entitled to it):in the laboratory of origin for eight to ten years after their generation. In addition these policies regularly provide for the event that the person responsible for generating the data moves to another institution. As a rule, the original records remain in the laboratory of origin, but duplicates may be made or rights of access specified.

Experience indicates that laboratories of high quality are able to comply comfortably with the practice of storing a duplicate of the complete data set on which a publication is based, together with the publication manuscript and the relevant correspondence. Space-saving techniques (e.g. diskette, CD-ROM) reduce the necessary effort.The published reports on scientific misconduct are full of accounts of vanished original data and of the circumstances under which they had reputedly been lost. This, if nothing else, shows the importance of the following statement: The disappearance of primary data from a laboratory is an infraction of basic principles of careful scientific practice and justifies a prima facie assumption of dishonesty or gross negligence.

–> 4.6 Handling of Allegations of Scientific Misconduct