Good data deserves to be remembered. The best way to keep data from being lost is to make sure it is properly archived. Many important data have been lost over time as storage devices become corrupted and fail, are lost, or are destroyed.
The best way to preserve important research data is to upload it to a reputable data repository. Data repositories come in two main flavours: domain specific repositories, which focus on certain types of data such as genomic information or astronomical information; or general repositories, which accept broader types of research data. If you are planning to archive data, we recommend that you archive to a domain specific repository when possible. Repository Finder, a tool by DataCite, can help you find an appropriate repository to deposit your research data.
Before archiving data for long term storage, there are a couple steps to follow.
- Ensure that the data is stored in sustainable, open file formats. Open file formats help ensure access to your data over the long term as proprietary software can disappear when companies go out of business.
- Data should be well documented and easily understandable. Research data should be packaged with metadata, so-called ‘data about data’. Data documentation is commonly included in readme files, codebooks, or data dictionaries. Metadata should include information about:
- File title, file format, language, creator, and date
- Data variable descriptions, including data type, allowable values, and calculations used (if applicable)
Research records are the documentation surrounding the research process, and can include consent forms, research proposals, grant applications, and other administrative or financial documents. These documents may have specific retention periods prescribed by ethics agency policy, law or granting agencies.