Research bites: an introduction to Digital Preservation

On Thursday 12th January I gave a Research Bites session on Digital Preservation. I’ve talked about this topic before and the advice I gave was the same – you can read about it here.  These are the slides I used:

which contains the basics of our approach and advice for researchers to ensure their research is preserved for the long term.

If we are going to value data we need to give it value.

Over the past twelve months I have slightly changed the emphasis of my approach to digital preservation. The secret to successful digital preservation is not about seeking a technical solution – it’s about good practice from the outset. If we are going to value data we need to give it value.  The process of preservation is one of collaboration to achieve the goal of long term access.

This means we should take the time to create useful and rich metadata; which gives context and meaning to the data. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated our technology is, if the data doesn’t make sense, or can’t be interpreted then there isn’t any point in keeping it.

It’s not just a requirement it’s also an opportunity.

Ultimately  the researcher is the one who is best placed to decide what data is of value and how best to keep it usable and accessible. This means preserving not just the raw data but the context as well. It’s not just a requirement it’s also an opportunity to highlight and promote excellent research undertaken by the university.

If you want to know more about managing your research data and making it available, now and into the future please get in touch or look at our website for more.



Research Bites in January 2017: Research data and infrastructure

Research Bites starts the New Year on the theme of Research data and Infrastructure.

Just turn up, no need to book! Tea/coffee and a cake provided.

Selecting data for long term preservation

Thursday 12th January, 12pm, Bowland North SR3. Live stream at 12.00 GMT
An introduction to Digital Preservation: How to keep data safe and accessible for the long term.
Rachel MacGregor, Digital Archivist, Library

Data Management Plans made easy

Monday 16th January, 12pm, Bowland North SR1. Live stream at 12.00 GMT
Get an introduction to the DMPonline system, and some useful tips that will make the writing of a Data Management Plan easier.
Hardy Schwamm, Research Data & Repository Manager, Library

Using Qualtrics to gather survey data

Thursday 19th January, 12pm, Bowland North SR3. Live stream at 12.00 GMT
Find out about this versatile, powerful and user-friendly survey tool for gathering research data.
Chris Dixon, Head of Service Delivery & Operations, ISS

How to mine and store bitcoins for free! Big data and high-end computing

Monday 23rd January, 12pm, Bowland North SR1. Live stream at 12.00 GMT
An Introductory talk on what Lancaster University can offer for those tasks that need massive computing power, including High End Computing (HEC), bespoke research compute resources and big data analysis.
Matt Storey, Technical Co-ordinator, ISS

February 2017

February’s theme will be Open Research.

‘Research Data’ recordings now available from January 2016

Thanks to all of the presenters and participants who have contributed their expertise and questions to Research Bites sessions so far in 2016!

Recordings of most of the sessions on Research data in January are now available from the Recordings archive here on the blog.

If you have questions about:

  • Managing your research data
  • Preserving your data
  • Data management plans
  • Depositing research data into Pure
  • Sharing data online
  • Research Data Management policies of funders or the University

please contact Hardy Schwamm and Rachel MacGregor at

If you have questions about:

  • Data encryption
  • Information Security
  • Lancaster University Box (cloud storage)

please contact ISS Help and Support

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

Research Bites in January 2016

Many thanks to everyone who has attended one or more Research Bites sessions this academic year so far. I hope you have gained valuable insights and made new connections.

Research Bites will be back in January, on the theme of Research Data.

DMPOnline – Data Management Plans made easy
Friday 15th January, 12.00, Bowland North SR 3
Get an introduction to the DMPonline system, and some useful tips that will make the writing of a Data Management Plan easier.
Hardy Schwamm, Research Data & Repository Manager, Library

Digital Preservation for Research Data
Wednesday 20th January*, 12.00, Bowland North SR 3
Tips on preparing and selecting your research data for long term preservation.
Rachel MacGregor, Digital Archivist, Library

Research data storage, sharing and collaboration using Box
Friday 22nd January, 12.00 Bowland North SR 3
This session will demonstrate how to use Lancaster University Box, a cloud based file storage solution provided by ISS, to share files within the university and with external collaborators, and highlight other features and resources you to take your research file sharing to a new level.
Chris Dixon, Head of Service Delivery & Operations, ISS

Research Data security and encryption
Monday 25th January, 12.00 Bowland North SR 3
Description to follow.
Graeme Hughes, Head of Faculty IT, and John Couzins, IT Security Manager, ISS

Your researcher identity – ORCID
Tuesday 26th January, 12.00 Bowland North SR 11
Find out what ORCID is, and how it can help you to capture and distinguish your research outputs.
Tanya Williamson, Academic Liaison Librarian, Library

Wishing you a restful holiday, and a Happy New Year!

Tanya Williamson, Academic Liaison Librarian

*this date has changed.

Photo Credit: hddod via Compfight cc