Preserve Your Digital Research Data

Preservation refers to the managed activities needed to ensure continued access to data in the long term.

The RDM measures you put in place from the start of your research (e.g. secure storage, appropriate metadata, clear documentation and organisation) help preserve your data.

Focus your preservation efforts on those research data and records of research activities that must be retained for compliance reasons, and to ensure you can continue to validate your research findings.

Take steps to identify what needs to be retained (and for how long) as early as possible in the research process and ensure that formal requirements for retention and disposal (i.e. either secure destruction or depositing in a data repository) are met.

What Data Must You Keep?

Massey University’s Code of Responsible Research Conduct (p. 9) says it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine what records and data should either be kept or securely disposed of, in line with any requirements set out in law, funding agreements, publisher’s agreements or through disciplinary conventions.

Other factors guiding decisions on what to keep include:

  • Ethics
  • Other Massey University codes and policies
  • Contractual arrangements and
  • Your own appraisal of the enduring value of your research data; to yourself and to the wider research community.

Massey University retention policies

Further advice:

Digital data is particularly vulnerable to threats such as media degradation or obsolescence, which compromise your ability to maintain access and usability.

Long-Term Data Preservation Options

One way to preserve your data for the long term is to deposit it in a discipline-specific data repository or archive. Find out more about discipline-specific repositories and archives.

You should also ask your supervisor or school to recommend any long-term storage options; your journal or funder may also specify preferred data repositories.

File Formats for Long-Term Access

A file format describes the way information is organised in a computer file. File formats apply to the following types of files:

  • documents
  • images
  • audio
  • video
  • research data sets

File formats and the software needed to open and use the files can become obsolete, leaving the data inaccessible. Before you store your data, consider the longevity of the file formats you choose. Select formats that are:

  • Widely used within your discipline
  • Open and non-proprietary

Such formats are typically developed and maintained by communities of interest, and technical information about the formats is publicly available.

For example:

Standard image formats JPEG 2000; PNG; SVG
Text ASCII; PDF; Open Document Format; Office Open XML format (the native format for recent versions of Microsoft Word)
Web HTML; XHTML; RSS; CSS
Some scientific data Net CDF

 

Often, research disciplines have a mandatory or preferred standard for saving and storing research data (e.g. SPSS data files for social science data sets).

Further advice:

Tools:

  • DROID (a free tool that will automatically profile a wide range of file formats. For example, it will tell you what file versions you have, their age and size, and when they were last changed)

Preserve Your Research Data Tool Kit

Researcher Development

Contact Us

Research Data Management Librarian
Guidance, training opportunities and practical support.

Research Development Team
Data management (funder retention requirements) advice for current and future research projects.

Information Technology Services (ITS)
Data-related services and advice on storage, backup, security, data quality, and metadata identification. Limited software for home installation.

Contact a Subject Librarian
Personal research help by email, phone, or appointment.

Acknowledgements

These guidelines are informed by information provided under open licenses by other organisations including:

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