Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How do I preserve my research data? FAQs

The good people of LSE hosted a meeting in March where we (DICE, PREPARE and SHARD) decided to devise a list of FAQs on the preservation of research data. We drafted it together on a Wiki hosted by the University of Cambridge. They will eventually be hosted on the IHR website but for now here they are.

What material and data should I preserve?

To enable the use and reuse of research data over time by others it is important to ensure that you provide documentation which describes the research data as well as the context of its creation as part of the research project. Technical information about the research data should also be kept to enable its reuse. If the data is encoded then code details must be kept. So in addition to the core research material you should provide a clear introduction to the entirety of the research data to enable future understanding and use.

Documentation such as emails and other material accompanying the core research data may seem irrelevant but they will all provide important contextualisation of the research project and can be appraised for relevance. Cambridge University uses terms such as embedded, supported and catalogue data to describe data which should accompany the search data itself. 


Will I lose control over the material if I preserve it? 

A significant number of research funders require that data produced in the course of the research they fund should be made available for other researchers to discover, examine and build upon to allow for new knowledge to be discovered through use, reuse, comparing data and so on. However you are responsible for deciding what data is legally obliged to be open or closed according to various pieces of legislation such as FOI and data protection. This should be stated at time of deposit.


Why shouldn't I just keep my data/material on my hard drive? 

Keeping all your research data in one place is not a good idea in general. It is essential not to keep your research data on your hard drive as inevitably hard drives fail and you will lose your data. You should always back up your data at least two more devices or systems (ideally a repository) external to your hard drive.

I have all my data on an external hard drive - do I need to do anything else?

Ensure that your data is well documented and be held on at least two external devices/systems, ideally including an institutional digital repository.


Why should I preserve research material?

Researchers from all disciplines accumulate material in the course of their research. Considerable time, effort and money is spent in this endeavour. The preservation of research data is essential in order to further research through sharing of the data; to enable validation of results and demonstrate the process behind the conclusions and results of research.


What is a digital repository? 

A digital repository is a system which provides a convenient infrastructure through which to store, manage, re-use and preserve digital materials. They are used by a variety of communities, may carry out many different functions, and can take many forms but essentially they are a secure way to keep data safe and accessible.


What archives/repositories are there for preserving my data? 

There is no single UK repository for research data. Instead many are being developed within universities. The OpenDoar initiative provides a comprehensive list of open repositories worldwide and in the UK.Here are some UK wide repositories for specific types of data:
  • The Archaeology Data Service supports research, learning and teaching with freely available, high quality and dependable digital resources. It does this by preserving digital data in the long term, and by promoting and disseminating a broad range of data in archaeology. The ADS promotes good practice in the use of digital data in archaeology, it provides technical advice to the research community, and supports the deployment of digital technologies.
  •  The University of Oxford Text Archive develops, collects, catalogues and preserves electronic literary and linguistic resources for use in Higher Education, in research, teaching and learning. We also give advice on the creation and use of these resources, and are involved in the development of standards and infrastructure for electronic language resources. 
  • The History Data Service (HDS) collects, preserves, and promotes the use of digital resources, which result from or support historical research, learning and teaching. The History Data Service is a successor service to AHDS History which from 1996 to March 2008 was one of the five centres of the Arts and Humanities Data Service. 


Can I use my institutional repository for data preservation? 

Yes, you should be able to do this, if your institution has an institutional repository which collects research material. You should enquire of your institution if this is the case.

Can/should I deposit in more than one repository/archive? 

No, it should be more than adequate to deposit in one repository but it depends on the service offered by the specific repository, e.g. does it guarantee that it will maintain access to the data over time?

Note: This page was developed by LSE/Cambridge/University of London and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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