Preserve your data , Rokirokia tō raraunga

Learn about the research data you need to preserve, and your options for long-term preservation.

Preserving your data means taking steps to ensure it can continue to be accessed in the long term.

The research data management (RDM) measures you put in place from the start of your research help preserve your data. These measures can include:

  • secure storage
  • appropriate metadata (data that describes and gives information about other data)
  • clear documentation
  • organisation.

It’s good to focus your preservation efforts on the data and research records that you need to retain for compliance reasons, and that ensure you can continue to validate your research findings.

As early as possible in the research process, you should take steps to identify:

  • what needs to be retained
  • how long it needs to be retained for.

You also need to make sure formal requirements for retention and disposal are met. This could mean secure destruction or depositing in a data repository.

Consider the appropriateness of archiving cultural research data online, such as Māori research data.

Data you need to keep

Massey’s Code of Responsible Research Conduct says it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine what records and data should either be kept or securely disposed of.

This should be in line with any requirements set out in:

  • law
  • funding agreements
  • publisher’s agreements
  • disciplinary conventions.

Other factors guiding decisions on what to keep include:

  • ethics
  • other Massey University codes and policies
  • contractual arrangements
  • your own appraisal of the enduring value of your research data to yourself and to the wider research community.

Massey’s retention policies

Code of Responsible Research Conduct

The Code of Responsible Research Conduct says that records derived from primary research material must be retained in an accessible form. This includes:

  • assays
  • test results
  • transcripts
  • laboratory and field notes.

General Disposal Authority for New Zealand Universities (section 13)

The General Disposal Authority for New Zealand Universities (section 13) is a legal instrument that states minimum retention periods for the administrative records of research.

More advice

For guidance on funder retention requirements for research projects, contact Massey’s Research Innovation and Impact team.

Email: rii@massey.ac.nz

For advice on the General Disposal Authority for New Zealand Universities, Massey’s records management policy, and secure data disposal, contact Massey’s Information and Records Management team.

Email: irm@massey.ac.nz

Five steps to decide what data to keep: a checklist for appraising research data from the Digital Curation Centre

Research ethics at Massey

Your school may also have data disposal procedures.

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

Digital 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:

Table of standard document formats.
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).

For further advice, see:

A good tool is DROID.

It’s free and it will automatically profile a wide range of file formats. For example, it will tell you:

  • what file versions you have
  • age and size of files
  • when files were last changed.

Physical data preservation options

Data that is stored in physical formats will deteriorate, whether on paper, photographic, digital or audio visual formats. While the rate of deterioration will differ, the lifespan of your physical data will depend on the preservation actions you apply.

You can preserve paper-based data by carrying out safe handling, transporting, display and storage in a controlled storage environment.

Digital data stored in physical formats such as film and magnetic media are particularly vulnerable to environmental conditions and format changes, and need extra care.

Guidance and advice

The National Library of New Zealand’s Preservation Office has a number of short guides on preserving different kinds of physical media, including disaster recovery advice.

National Library's preservation guides

The National Archives of Australia also provides format-specific preservation advice.

Advice on preserving information

Contact a subject or Māori services librarian

We're here to help you with your research or teaching. Contact a subject or Māori services librarian by email or book an appointment.