Research bites: digital preservation for research data

This is a Research Bites session I delivered on Wednesday 20th January 2016.  You can see the slides here:

What is digital preservation?

Back-up is not the same as preservation: “archiving” data generally means backing it up.  Preservation implies that things will be accessible and readable long-term – not corrupted or hidden by out of date formats.

The integrity of data needs to be maintained – even slight alterations could have enormous implications for re-use and verification of data.

Fragility of data storage

Even the most trusted repositories can have funding withdrawn from them and become inaccessible.  See these examples from the past few years:

Tranche Repository

Arts and Humanities Data Service


Some questions you need to ask yourself

Where is the data going to be kept?

How is the data going to be shared and accessed?

How long does it need to be kept for?

How will the costs be covered?

Some other considerations

Ethical considerations:  ensuring that the quality and reliability of the data is maintained as well as the integrity of the data itself.

If the data contains sensitive information it needs to be kept confidential/anonymous – again these are considerations around where and how it is kept.

If the data gathered as part of a research proposal were created by a third party is it certain to be in copyright to the researcher?

Where public money is invested into research it is important that outcomes and data are shared and made available as widely as possible and can help raise research profiles.

How long do we need to keep data for?

It does vary by Research Council and funder but they all acknowledge “long term value” of research data.

Some funders require data to be kept for 10 years from last access.

You can help

What we need from you focuses on the information or metadata which supports the research data. Without context then the data are virtually useless.

Choosing file formats is important.

And we’re here to help you

Our role is to ensure compliance with all the relevant funder requirements and the right systems to ensure that authenticity, integrity and stability of data.

We offer advice and guidance on all aspects of research data management.

We can advise over choosing a suitable repository to suit your area and specific needs.

We advise about appropriate formats and also about the right kind of metadata which is needed

We can also help advise about selection of data.

What to data to keep

This is always a difficult one but RCUK do offer some tips

RCUK’s data policy says data with “acknowledged long term value” should be retained. So what is “acknowledged long term value?

Will the data underpin an article submitted to a journal that has a policy requiring it to be available?

Will data produced through RCUK funding underpin a published research output?

If so then the data needs to be preserved.

Generally it will be the data which makes sense of and supports the published article.

And finally

No one case is the same as another.

We’re here to offer advice and guidance.

Our aim is to support you in creating and maintaining valuable research outcomes, complying with funder expectations and ensuring as much access to research data as possible.

Get in touch if you need further help.

Rachel MacGregor, Digital Archivist


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Lancaster University Library | Research Bites

Supporting teaching, learning and research at Lancaster University.

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