Looking after your data

There are countless ways to lose data: a file is accidentally deleted, a computer is stolen, the context of the data is unclear, software becomes obsolete. How do you keep your data findable and useable?

File formats

A file format is the way in which the information in a digital file is coded. To keep research data useable, it is important to save them in a durable format. 

Data storage

How and where you store your data will determine the security and durability of your files. 

Organising data

Good organisation of your files allows you to find your data easily later on. It also prevents confusion when working with several file versions, and it is easier to see which data are (still) missing or of which file more copies were saved unnecessarily.

Data description

In order to keep your research data useable for yourself and others, it is wise to describe your data: set down all the information necessary to understand the contents and context of the data. 

Metadata

Simply put, metadata are data on data: they are the characteristic or identifying features of a file. As soon as you are going to publish or archive your data, you will be asked to provide the metadata.

Back-ups

If research data are lost or rendered useless, it may be extremely costly or even impossible to reacquire the data. Therefore it is recommended to store data properly and to make back-ups.

Data security

Research data must be stored securely, especially when they contain confidential or sensitive personal data.

Selection and destruction of data

There are limits to the storing of data: there is not enough money and space to keep everything. On what grounds do you decide which data should be saved? And what does data destruction involve? 

Archiving data

At the conclusion of your research project, you are obliged to save the raw research data for at least five years and to make them available to other researchers upon request. You can do this yourself, but you can also choose to store your data in a data repository.

Non-digital data

Research data are not necessarily digital. There may be good reasons to decide to digitise analogue research material. 

Published by  RDM support

25 May 2016