Research data is any data you have collected, observed, generated or created for your research. It includes, for example, statistics, images, survey results or interview transcripts.
Research data management refers to how you create, organise, store, secure, share and discover your data. Good research data management makes it easier to write up your research, reuse your data and share it with others (video 12:35). It will also help you avoid risk, comply with your institution’s research data management policies and preserve your integrity as a researcher. Use the Jisc Research Data Lifecycle tool to learn more about the different stages of managing research data.
Start thinking about research data management before you begin your project. This will help you organise, store and preserve data in a FAIR way and comply with any institutional and funder policies which apply to your research. Read the University of Worcester Effective management of research data policy, Intellectual property policy and Research ethics policy and find out whether your research funder requires you to make your data shareable. If you’re not sure, check the Digital Curation Centre’s overview of research funders’ data policies and funders’ data policies document. Data sharing policies vary by journal so, if you are planning to publish your work, check the publisher policies for more details.
Start by creating a data management plan to outline how you will manage and document your research data. If you are applying for a research grant, check whether your funder requires you to submit a data management plan as part of your application.
Your plan should include the format and volume of your data, how you will document and share your data, and how and when you will destroy it at the end of your project. The Digital Curation Centre offers guidance on developing a useful and effective data management plan and best practice examples of a data management plan.
Use well-organised file names and folder structures to help you to keep track of your data. This is particularly important if you are collaborating with other researchers.
Document your file naming convention to save yourself time later. Good file names contain:
The University of Worcester Information security policy also requires you to classify all your data.
Remember that current software may not always support older file types. Make sure your data will be usable in the future by choosing file formats which are commonly used within your research community and have open documented standards or publicly available technical specifications. Choose a file type which is shareable and able to extract and discover data and preserves data without compression. The UK Data Service provide details of recommended formats for different data types.
Metadata is just data about your data. Record metadata related to your project to make it easier for other researchers to find, reuse and share your data. Create a "readme" file to store all the metadata from your research. Good metadata should include:
Metadata standards are discipline-specific so check The Research Data Alliance’s directory of metadata standards for information for your subject area.
Losing your research data could have a significant impact on the progress of your research project. Protect yourself from data loss by following the 3-2-1 backup strategy:
You have a responsibility to keep your data secure. The University of Worcester Information security policy provides a framework for managing the security of your data. If you have any questions about data security, contact the ICT Service Desk.
Make sure your data is accessible by depositing it in a repository. There are many options to consider when choosing a data repository. For example, your funder may require you to use a specified data centre or repository. If you’re not sure, check this list of research funder data deposit policies.
A licence establishes your legal rights as the creator of your data. It lets you share your research with others and control how they use it.
The licence you choose will depend on what you want to allow users to do with your data. To maximise the impact of your work, choose a licence which allows the broadest range of reuse. Use the UFAL licence selector tool to find a license that is right for you.
A data access statement directs your reader to the data which underpins your publication to ensure clarity and transparency. You may need a data access statement to comply with your research funder’s open data ethos.
Prepare a data access statement before you submit your research for final publication. Use these sample data access statements from the University of Strathclyde to help you. Your statement should explain:
If access to your data is restricted or there is no data underpinning your research, explain this in your statement.
You will usually include your data access statement with your acknowledgements or reference list but this can vary by publisher so, if you intend to publish your work in a particular journal, check their policy first.