Preserving and Sharing Data
As your research nears completion, you will need to think about the fate of your research data beyond the lifetime of your project. The University Research Data Management Policy (PDF) requires researchers to offer for preservation in a suitable data repository data that substantiate published research findings, and the University Code of Good Practice in Research (3.12) requires researchers to ensure that research data relating to publications are retained intact and in a form that would enable retrieval by a third party for a minimum of three years. The long-term preservation and sharing of relevant research data may also be a requirement specified by your research funder.
It is not possible or desirable to keep all of the data that are collected in the course of a research project, for very good reasons:
- Storage of data comes at a cost, which can accumulate significantly over the long-term and consume valuable institutional resources;
- If you store too much unnecessary or low-value data it makes it more difficult to find the important data when you need to retrieve them;
- You could be liable for a Freedom of Information request for all of the data you keep.
Effective management of research data involves making decisions about what data to keep and what should be thrown away. If you have been managing data well throughout your project it is likely that you will have been weeding out unwanted data as you go along, using your data management plan as a reference. This should put you in a good position to undertake the end-of-project appraisal and selection.
Appraisal and selection need not be undertaken in isolation. If you are part of a research group, decisions about retention and disposal of data should be approached collectively. You may also be able to obtain specialist advice and support from other colleagues or research partners, from your funder or project sponsor, or from the data service where you plan to deposit your data. If you require specialist support and do not know how to access this, contact us for advice.