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Research Data Management: Preserving Data

Resources for writing data management plans, preserving and sharing research data

Data Preservation Best Practices

Properly preserving research data requires a bit of planning. Thinking about where and how research data will be preserved will ensure that valuable information will not be lost and that data can easily be accessed in the future.

When planning a preservation strategy, keep the following best practices in mind:

1. Back-up Research Data

  • Keep a minimum of three copies of your data. One copy should be stored in a trusted, off-site location, such as a campus server. Contact the University Technology Services Help Desk (303-871-4700) to learn more about storage options available to DU faculty.
  • Back-up data frequently and at regular intervals
  • Document back-up procedures so that everyone responsible for data preservation will be following the same method

 

2. Use Stable File Formats

  • Store data in file formats that will be readable in the future, regardless of changes in applications
  • These formats are usually non-proprietary, not tied to a particular software package, unencrypted, uncompressed, or are an open, documented standard
  • Consider formats commonly used within your research community
  • If a particular software package is required to read the data file, include the details of the software (i.e. name, version, vendor, required platform) in the metadata

 

3. Develop a File-naming Strategy

  • Be consistent when naming files. Include the same information (date, time, etc.) in the same order for every file. Use the date format YYYYMMDD so that files will sort chronologically.
  • Be descriptive. Include information necessary to differentiate different projects, trials, equipment, and versions.

 Example: Project_location_instrument_YYYYMMDD_v1

  • And yet be brief! Some operating systems limit the number of characters used in file names; aim for using 25 characters in your file names

 

4. Use Metadata Standards to Describe Your Data

  • Documenting information about your data (metadata) is important for sharing and enabling discoverability. This type of documentation can include descriptive information about the data set (i.e. creator, title, etc.) or contextual information (i.e. instrument, software, environmental conditions) needed to make sense of the data.
  • Many fields have developed their own metadata standards and guidelines, as the information needed to describe data is often unique to a particular discipline.
  • The Digital Duration Centre maintains a list of disciplinary metadata standards that you can search or browse in order to locate a standard appropriate to your discipline.

 

References

DataOne's Best Practices database
NCSU Libraries. Data Storage & File Naming

University of Colorado, Boulder: File Naming and Versioning

Digital Curation Center: Discilpinary Metadata