Research data management: Start here

What is research data?

Research data are materials used as evidence to support your research and scholarship, or related creative practices. In some cases, such data would be required to properly validate or review your research results. 

Research data can take a wide range of forms, and can include both non-digital and digital material. Common types of research data include images, tabular data, audio or video interviews, music, experimental data, instrument data, models, and compiled data. 

Not all written records and computer files in a research lab are considered research data. For example, procedural information like lab schedules or timetables, or contact information, would not be considered research data. 

What is research data management, and why does it matter?

Research data management describes all activities that support the responsible collection, handling, storage, organization, documentation, sharing, publication, and long-term storage of data files. For example, data management can help you handle situations such as these: 

  • If you wanted to share your data with another researcher, would they be able to make sense of your work? 
  • If you needed to check your data or re-use it again in future, how easy would it be to find and use those records?

Responsible management of your research data helps current and future users of the data interpret, interact with, and review your findings. In addition, a growing number of journal publishers, research grant funding agencies, and research ethics boards are introducing requirements for the appropriate management and sharing of research data.

Where should I start? 

To begin thinking about managing your research data, start by writing a brief data management plan. Such a plan would include identifying methods to organize your research data files, ensure data security, describe file contents and the research project sufficiently for accessibility, and share research data online following appropriate ethical considerations. Find more details on these and other related activities as you start to plan how to manage your research data