How do I archive research data?

In this context, archiving means the organisation and reporting of research data for long-term preservation. Regardless of whether research data is to be preserved or disposed, they must be kept safe and labelled while being kept. All researchers must make sure to keep their documents in order and should think about metadata, organisation, and structure at an early stage of their research project.

archive Photo: Maja Hallerfors

Archiving research data on paper

How to deliver research data on paper to the archive:

  1. Fill in the form on disposal/preserving data.
  2. Properly organise and package the documents and label them clearly.
  3. Write to,  to arrange a delivery time. 

In more detail, the procedure should be as follows:

  1. By the conclusion of a research project at the latest, the principal investigator (PI) should decide if the data are to be disposed or preserved and fill out this form. The purpose of the form is to capture the metadata that are needed from an archiving perspective. If the same information is given in the Data Management Plan, a copy may be submitted instead.
  2. Complete the form with details of the project’s title, the principal investigator (PI), start and end dates, confidentiality status, encryption code, etc. as well as if the material is to be saved or disposed of (and if so, when) and on what basis this assessment has been made. The form must be signed by the principal investigator (PI) and saved along with the data from the research project. When the research data are submitted for archiving, they must be accompanied by the form.
  3. Research data on paper intended to be preserved indefinitely must be stored well organised in an approved archiving boxes labelled with document type, project name, principal investigator, volume number and date. All paper clips, plastic wallets/pockets and post-it notes are to have been removed along with all working material, duplicates and drafts. In some cases, there may be a need to wait before packing of the material into approved archiving boxes. If so, it is important that binders and the like must be clearly labelled with the same information. Disposable research data need not to be repackaged in an approved archiving box. Folders and the like must, however, be marked with the year of disposal before submission to the archive.
  4. Research data intended for preservation must then be delivered for storage in an approved archive. Contact to arrange a delivery time. (Some Karolinska Institutet departments also have local archivists, who can be contacted about the delivery of research data. More details about this can be found under local content below.)

The archivist will then enter the research data to be archived in KI’s archival inventory. If you’re a researcher and want access to your material after it has been archived, contact the archive unit.

For information on how long research data must be saved, see laws and regulations on the archiving of research data and KI´s Records Schedule for documents.

Archiving digital research data

KI does not currently have an electronic system for the archiving of digital research data. Nonetheless, it is important to bear the following in mind:

  • Safe storage
  • File format
  • Folder structure and
  • Metadata

It is worth emphasising that the long-term storage of digital research data is made much easier if you remember that the material must be saved in an organised and safe fashion with good metadata from the start of the research project. You should therefore use a rational folder structure and suitable file formats from the very start. Much of this work can be facilitated by having a proper data management plan.

There are a number of solutions for the storage of data at Karolinska Institutet. The store and share files page will tell you which solutions are approved for different kinds of data.

Also think about the file format in which the material is saved. Use, if possible, open, non-vendor dependent formats. The file format must also be readable for as long as the material is to be saved, which means that the choice of suitable format very much depends on how long this will be. The Swedish National Data Service (SND) has a list of recommended file formats for the preservation of data. If research data are to be preserved indefinitely, one (if possible) of the recommended formats must be used. (See also Riksarkivets föreskrift (RA-FS 2009:2) on approved formats (in Swedish). It may be necessary to convert data to ensure that the information is not lost over time.

It is also important to use a suitable, clear folder structure for each research project and to name your files and folders in a clear and consistent way. If there are many versions of the same file, it is important to think about version management.

When the research project has been completed and research data are to be prepared for long-term preservation, the material to be archived is to be kept separate from the material to be disposed. Complete this form to decide if the data are to be saved or disposed.

To make the material re-searchable, you must label it with the following metadata:

  • Project name (or project ID/ref. Number, if any)
  • Responsible researcher/research group leader
  • The start and end dates of the study
  • Year of disposal for disposable material (10 years after project completion)
  • Information regarding possible confidentiality status and/or (sensitive) personal data

For information on how long the research data must be saved, see laws and regulations on the archiving of research data and KI´s Records Schedule for documents.


I am a doctoral student and want to archive my thesis. How do I go about this?

When your thesis is printed and nailed, an archival copy is sent to the archive from the library.

As for the research documents, KI's Records Schedule for documents is available to find out which documents should be preserved. If your thesis was part of a research project, your research documents must be archived together with the rest of the project and it is ultimately the PI who is responsible for the archiving and decides what should be disposed and preserved, in accordance with KI guidelines. If your thesis has not been part of an established research project (e.g. industrial doctoral student), the research is archived as a separate project.

However, the handling of doctoral students' work may differ between KI's departments. The routines that apply at your institution can affect what must be archived.

We have transcribed interviews in our research project. Do we have to archive both the audio file and the transcription?

Yes, both the audio file (e.g. an interview) and the transcription of it should be archived. The audio file must be saved as this constitutes the original (raw data) and may contain information that was not included in the transcription. The transcription is to be regarded as an interpretation of the audio file (on which the analysis is usually made) and thus constitutes a separate document that must also be saved.

Contact us - Archive

If you have questions about archiving your research, please contact

Some departments also have their own archivists who can be contacted for questions about archiving research data. In such cases, more information about this can be found under local content below.


More information for logged in staff

There is more information for those of you working in the following groups

  • K8.Department of Clinical Neuroscience
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