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?
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.
How and where you store your data will determine the security and durability of your files.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Research data are not necessarily digital. There may be good reasons to decide to digitise analogue research material.