The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) provides the following pointers for sequestration: Experience has shown that prompt and complete sequestration of physical evidence is vital for resolving misconduct allegations. If evidence is not sequestered systematically or promptly, with an identifiable chain of custody, the integrity of the evidence can be questioned, creating avoidable complications in misconduct cases. Attention to detail is vital and it is better to secure more, rather than less, evidence and corroborating information. Proper evidence management protects the research and those involved.
ADF has performed numerous sequestrations on devices including:
- Principal Investigator (PI), post-doc, and grad student computers and media devices (including lab computers, external hard drives, thumb drives, and more)
- FCS (Flow Cytometry Standard) files
- Kodak Imagers
- Computers used in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop and Western blots
- University file shares, network drives, and common areas
- Becton Dickinson (BD) FACStation devices
- Exchange/Outlook Email servers
- Thermo Fisher Scientific myECL Imager devices
Of course, we understand the need to “get back to science”—we’re of the same opinion! Once ADF has created a forensic image of all data on the computer with complete Chain of Custody (which typically takes just hours), those same devices—with all their data intact and in the same condition in which they were sequestered—can be returned to the labs. At that point, you’ve successfully completed a defensible data sequestration—and research marches on. We value the important work done by researchers, and want data sequestration to interfere with day-to-day proceedings as little as possible. Recently, ADF professionals sequestered, documented, forensically copied, then returned and hooked up more than 100 devices—containing over 25,000 gigabytes of data, from more than 10 laboratories and various researcher offices—in under 32 hours. Data sequestration need not be a torturously slow affair!