When employees leave, they take their skills and institutional knowledge with them. It is important to record essential informative information related to projects and datasets to ensure the success of future users. If the team has been consistent in data documentation and following a Data Management Plan, this process will be smoother. However, we understand best laid plans often go awry.

Have you reviewed RDM Onboarding? We suggest starting there!

Ready for RDM Offboarding?

We have created guidance that outline the important steps for offboarding employees when they leave the institution. This guidance focuses specifically on research data. While the principles are general, overall steps focus on Harvard policies and resources. You will find internal links to applicable practices, and external links as supplementary resources. You may want to also review HUIT's guidance on preparing for leaving Harvard. For assistance with terminology, visit Data Management Terminology

Jump to the Offboarding Checklist.

Offboarding: Data Planning

  • Create, Refer to, or Update a Knowledge Transfer File

    Having carried out biomedical research, you have produced and/or acquired reagents and datasets, developed and used experimental and data analysis methods, and accumulated other important research records.

    To ensure long-term accessibility and facilitate reuse of your reagents, data, and methods by colleagues, it is important to create a descriptive Knowledge Transfer File with relevant metadata. Refer to this document throughout the offboarding process.

    • Your scientific advisor, lab manager, or department administrator may be able to provide a template or formatting suggestions to guide you as you create your Knowledge Transfer File.
    • Further information about the creation of a Knowledge Transfer File is provided throughout this checklist.

    The Knowledge Transfer File should include:

    • Contact information related to projects, reagents, and datasets
    • Location of reagents, datasets, and research files
    • Documentation regarding publicly shared datasets (e.g., README Files)
    • How the projects, reagents, and datasets relate to publications and grants
    • Specific grant information relevant to projects, reagents, and datasets, including grant number, start, and end dates
    • Project start and end dates, if known
    • Other key dates associated with project timelines, reagent and dataset production, and publication
    • Additional metadata addressing file naming conventions, directory structure, file formats, relevant software tools, access permissions, and versioning

    Download and utilize the Knowledge Transfer File Template.

  • Comply with Institutional, Departmental, and Lab Policies and Procedures Related to Data Retention

    Harvard and many granting agencies have requirements addressing the timelines for data retention and maintenance. Determine the length of time the data produced must be retained per Harvard policy.

    • Consult your PI, lab manager, or department administrator for specific policies related to your area of study.
    • Include within your Knowledge Transfer File:
      • Grant information relevant to projects and datasets, including grant number, start, and end dates
      • The entity responsible for future maintenance of the data

Offboarding: Data Storage

Offboarding: Data Sharing

Research Data Offboarding Webinar
RDM Seminar Recorded Spring 2024
Watch the following video to learn more about the offboarding process.