Project Closeout: Manage Data, Research Records and Materials

Once your research project is complete, you will likely have a number of files (hard copy and electronic), samples, or other physical materials to store or dispose of. Here we provide information about record retention requirements and Cornell resources to help you manage this process.

Requirements for Data and Records Retention

Research records must be retained in university facilities, unless the Vice Provost for Research grants specific permission to do otherwise. Beyond any required period of retention, the destruction of research records is at the discretion of the PI, according to college or department policy, or the norms of their field.

Sponsored Projects

Under Cornell University Policy 4.7, "Retention of University Records", grant and contract proposals, awards, agreements and supporting documentation must be retained for the following lengths of time:

  • New York State projects: 6 years after close of grant
  • Federal projects: 3 years after close of grant
  • Industry, Foundation, and Non-Profit projects: retention lengths can vary, and are dictated by the terms of the specific agreement

Animal Research (IACUC)

The collection, retention, and sharing of data related to research involving vertebrate animals must comply with Cornell University Policy 1.4, “Care and Use of Live Vertebrate Animals in Research and Teaching,” as well as all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines. Contact the IACUC office for more information.

Human Participant Research (IRB)

Collection, retention, and sharing of research data involving human participants must comply with Cornell Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies, as well as all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines. Contact the IRB office for more information.

Special Circumstances

Any of the following circumstances may justify longer periods of retention:

  • If the terms of a sponsored research agreement require a longer retention period;
  • If the Center for Technology Licensing deems retention is required to protect intellectual property;
  • If any allegations regarding the research arise, such as academic misconduct or conflict of interest. Research data must be retained until such allegations are fully resolved;
  • If a legal action, investigation, or official inquiry related to the research is ongoing, research data must be retained until such issues are fully resolved.

Document Management and Storage Resources at Cornell

Disposal of Biological Materials and Lab Waste

For information about safe and compliant disposal, visit: