primary data or witnesses to support published reports sometimes has constituted a presumption that the experiments were not conducted as reported.13 Furthermore, there is disagreement about the responsibilities of investigators to provide access to raw data, particularly when the reported results have been challenged by others. Many scientists believe that access should be restricted to peers and colleagues, usually following publication of research results, to reduce external demands on the time of the investigator. Others have suggested that raw data supporting research reports should be accessible to any critic or competitor, at any time, especially if the research is conducted with public funds. This topic, in particular, could benefit from further research and systematic discussion to clarify the rights and responsibilities of research investigators, institutions, and sponsors.
Institutional policies have been developed to guide data storage practices in some fields, often stimulated by desires to support the patenting of scientific results and to provide documentation for resolving disputes over patent claims. Laboratories concerned with patents usually have very strict rules concerning data storage and note keeping, often requiring that notes be recorded in an indelible form and be countersigned by an authorized person each day. A few universities have also considered the creation of central storage repositories for all primary data collected by their research investigators. Some government research institutions and industrial research centers maintain such repositories to safeguard the record of research developments for scientific, historical, proprietary, and national security interests.
In the academic environment, however, centralized research records raise complex problems of ownership, control, and access. Centralized data storage is costly in terms of money and space, and it presents logistical problems of cataloguing and retrieving data. There have been suggestions that some types of scientific data should be incorporated into centralized computerized data banks, a portion of which could be subject to periodic auditing or certification.14 But much investigator-initiated research is not suitable for random data audits because of the exploratory nature of basic or discovery research.15
Some scientific journals now require that full data for research papers be deposited in a centralized data bank before final publication. Policies and practices differ, but in some fields support is growing for compulsory deposit to enhance researchers' access to supporting data.