For how long should data be archived?

Q. Dear Nature editors

I am a graduate student pursuing masters in biotechnology at a university. I am taking “Ethics and Professionalism Course” which is dealing with ethics, record keeping, laboratory notebook and paper publishing. I have been assigned a course work to inquire from one of the NATURE editors “What would be the reasonable time limit for keeping the data of a published paper ?”.

Could you please spare some time to reply me and give me your opinion of what would be a reasonable time limit for keeping the data (record keeping) of a published paper in your journal.

I really appreciate your help in doing my course work.

A. Dear graduate student


Yours sincerely



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    Pierre said:

    Q. Dear Nature editors

    My precious data are archived on a 5 1/4-inch disk. It contains a file that can only be read with an old software called VisiCalc, using an Apple IIc.

    Should I keep that disk ?

    See also:

    Maxine adds: Without knowing the nature of these data, I’d suggest a back-up hard copy. But of course, as you imply, “permanently” is an ideal that for practical reasons cannot always be achieved. It is a good idea for people to think about this aspect of their work, though, eg in converting obsolete formats when they can, backing up in hard copy, ensuring that type-samples are not destroyed if possible, and so on. Making serious efforts would have made a difference on previous occasions where data have not been kept for no good reason. But there are always going to be genuine cases where forethought and planning would not have helped.

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