Research

Research Data Management Guidance

This guidance provides best-practice advice on managing your research data throughout the lifecycle of your project. 


Create 

There are many decisions to make about managing your data before you even start creating or collecting it. Decisions made at the beginning (or as early as possible) will affect how you can access, use or preserve your data in the future.

Data Management Planning

Funding bodies increasingly require grant-holders to develop and implement Data Management and Sharing Plans. Plans typically state what data will be created and how, and outline the plans for sharing and preservation, noting what is appropriate given the nature of the data and any restrictions that may need to be applied.

Further advice and examples of Data Management Plan can be found on the Digital Curation Centre website;

www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/data-management-plans
www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/data-management-plans/guidance-examples
www.dcc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/resource/DMP/DMP_Checklist_2013.pdf

Data Management for Funding Bids

All research council funders and other major funders provide policies and guidance on managing your data, which should be available to you via the funder’s website or by contacting the funder directly. The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has provided a convenient overview of individual funders’ data policies

www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/data-management-plans/funders-requirements. Researchers should check the requirements of their individual funder.

Organise

Choosing a logical and consistent way to name and organise your files allows you and others to locate and use them. Ideally, the best time to think how to name and structure the documents and directories you create is at the start of a project.

Agreeing on a naming convention will help to provide consistency, which will make it easier to find and correctly identify your files, prevent version control problems when working on files collaboratively, and generally prevent errors in research. Organising your files carefully will save you time and frustration and prevent duplication or errors by helping you and your colleagues find what you need when you need it.

Secure, Store and Access Your Research

Few researchers work in the same location at all times, so there will be times when you will need to remote access your data. You will probably also share files with others, either as part of a project or through routine information-sharing with colleagues. In addition to accessing your own data, you may want to access existing sources of data. 

Access Statements

Just as other research that is used in a scholarly article should be cited, so should any datasets that are drawn upon to substantiate the published findings. Statements on how the underlying data can be accessed can take many forms, ranging from contact details to request access, to URLs and full citations. It is preferable not to direct potential future users to a personal email address as these change regularly and can be unreliable. It is recommended that each dataset has a unique identifier which can be cited. Citations must provide the reader with enough information to access the dataset.

Examples of suitable citation formats are available from a variety of sources including DataCite www.datacite.org/services/cite-your-data.html and the Digital Curation Centre www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/how-guides/cite-datasets.

Metadata

Sufficient metadata should be provided to allow others to understand what research data exists, why, when and how it was generated and also how to access it. A robust digital object identifier should also be assigned. There are many standards and schema for metadata, often discipline-specific or a required by a particular subject repository. However, as a minimum, metadata should describe why, when and how the data was generated; and how to access it. A typical minimum set of metadata elements would include data creator, publisher, year, title and description.

Remote Access

How can you access your data when you’re not at the University? 

You can either: 

  • Keep a central copy that you can access from elsewhere (via the web);
  • Have a secondary copy that you send / keep with you (using email or portable storage media). If you choose this option, you’ll need to practice good version control.

Storage

There are various storage options available to you.

  • The University offers networked storage in the form of personal drives and shared drives;
  • Your desktop machine and laptop have hard drives on which data can be stored;
  • There are lots of portable storage media, e.g. external hard drives, CDs etc;
  • Online services such as SkyDrive provide some free storage.

Security

There are many threats to data security, so you should:

  • Manage physical controls such as door and window locks;
  • Apply technical access controls such as user privileges and passwords;
  • Use appropriate storage;
  • Use encryption or secure transfer methods if necessary.

Once you finish your project, you may want to preserve and share your own data with your research community through a digital repository or data centre (which may garner data citations).

Preserve 

Preservation of your data is important because:

  • Unlike paper documents, digital materials aren’t stable and easy to use after decades;
  • Data must be actively managed so they can still be found, understood and used in the future;
  • The University and most funders require researchers to keep their data for up to and beyond 10 years after creation.

For guidance on maintaining your data over time, archiving, selection for retention, using digital repositories and open access, please read Whyte, A. & Wilson, A. (2010). “How to Appraise and Select Research Data for Curation”. Which can be found online at www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/how-guides