Researchers leaving


To manage the process around a researcher leaving (planned or not).


  • When a researcher is leaving (planned or not), agreements need to be made concerning the future of the project(s) and writing/completing articles.
  • Written agreement about the use and handling of data if the researcher needs access to finish agreed tasks.


  • All agreements between departing researchers and the remaining project members.


Executing researcher: Formulates feasible agreements and adheres to them.
Project leaders: Initiates the discussion on the arrangements to be made. Formulates feasible agreements and adheres to them.
Research assistant: N.a.

How To

The process around a researcher leaving can be divided into 3 phases:
  1. Notification of researcher leaving
If a researcher has handed in his/her notice, or as a planned end to a contract approaches, it is important for the researcher leaving and the remaining project members to arrange how the last weeks/months prior to the researcher leaving can be organised as efficiently as possible. The following actions/agreements can serve as examples:
  • Explore whether completion of current project(s) and/or articles is achievable.
  • Produce a weekly plan up to the moment the researcher leaves, prioritising all the activities required.
  • For doctoral students: Explore whether the manuscript can be completed within the contract time.
  • When a training plan has been included in the contract: Review whether the training plan can be achieved and create, if necessary, a plan to complete any outstanding courses.
  • Start as early as possible to re-distribute the additional tasks from the departing researcher between the remaining project members. Consider, for instance, mentoring interns, final reports to the grant authority and associated data analysis, article submissions.
  • Create an overview of the departing researcher’s remaining activities. Consider, for instance, committee memberships. Will a replacement need to be found?
  • Start the recruitment process for a replacement, if required.
  1. Point of departure
An evaluation of the uncompleted tasks will be a central consideration at the time the researcher’s leaves. What agreements have been made about unfinished projects and articles? Will the departing researcher continue to actively participate?
The following actions can be considered:
  • Review project and article status: Has the planning been successful? If certain aspects have not been achieved: Are these to be removed from the departing researcher’s list and passed on to another member of the project team, or will the departing researcher start these after he/she leaves?
  • Come to agreements regarding the course of affairs after the departure: Will the researcher continue to be involved/participate? Examples could include completing articles that are in an advanced stage.
  • Organise the transfer of research data. Refer to the 1.5-01 Transfer and Archiving guideline.
  • If the researcher leaving need access to the data: a written agreement about the use, protection, transfer and destruction of the data is obligatory.
  • Exchange contact information. This does not just involve new contact details for the departing researcher, but also contact information the departing researcher has of other people who may be useful to the project. Examples of this include contact information of financiers and research assistants. Ensure that this information is available to the replacement for the departing researcher/the remaining project members.
  • Make notes of the agreements made and e-mail these to the departing researcher.
  1. After the researcher has left
The following actions can be taken into consideration if it is decided that the departing researcher will remain involved once he/she has left, for instance, to complete articles:
  • Monitor the progress of the agreements: Does it continue to be feasible for the researcher to be personally involved? Particularly where the departing researcher is starting a new job, experience has shown that it is difficult to complete tasks from the “old” job alongside the new job. It is therefore also good practice to have regular contact with the departing researcher and to continue communicating.
  • Unfinished articles: Come to an agreement about who will complete the article and the order of authors. For instance: If a researcher has an unfinished article and will not be able to complete this due to his/her new job, then agreements will need to be made about who will complete the article and what the impact will be on the order of authors and the corresponding author.
  • Articles that still need to be written: What is the role of the departing researcher in this process? Consider, for instance, co-authorship.
  • Final report to grant authority: Who will be responsible for this report?

Audit questions

1) For projects where the doctoral student is in his/her 4th year or study/researchers approaching the end of their contract:
  • Have there already been discussions between the doctoral student/researcher and project management about future options for the student/researcher?
  • Has the feasibility of completing the manuscript within the contract time been discussed?
  • Have agreements been made about current and planned publications in respect of authorship and addresses for correspondence?
  • Have agreements been made about courses to be completed, etc.?
  • Have the agreements been made in writing?
2) for all leavings:
  • Has the project leader access to all data and documents in the project map?
  • Does the project leader has access to all other relevant materials?
  • If the researcher leaving need access to the data: Is a written agreement about the use, protection, transfer and destruction of the data signed?
  • If needed: Are all agreements clearly documented?

V3.1: 17 Oct 2016: Small revisions, audit questions (7.2) added
V2.0: 12 May 2015: Revision format
V1.1: 1 Jan 2010: English translation
V1.0: 26 Jun 2008