Preserve your research data

 

March 20, 2020 update: While the physical SFU Libraries are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 measures, we are happy to continue to support you with any research data management questions remotely. Please feel free to contact us by email at data-services@sfu.ca during this time, and we can set up a meeting via video conferencing or telephone.

 

For long-term preservation and storage of research data, publishing your data in dedicated online data repositories can be a great option.

While personal cloud storage (e.g., SFU Vault, DropBox, or Google Drive) might be useful for storage of your data while in the collection or processing stages, it is not recommended to use these services for stable long term preservation.

Instead, data should be preserved either in institutional repositories or in external data archives and subject-specific repositories. A stable and established data repository will typically manage all aspects of data preservation for you.

Having an appropriate preservation strategy will ensure that your digital files remain accessible and readable, and will mitigate the risks from loss of files.

Why preserve your data?

Researchers invest a great deal of time, effort, and resources in collecting data to support their projects. This investment means research data has significant value in addition to its intrinsic value as a record of human knowledge.

You or one of your collaborators may want to use that data again in the future and funders, journals, and sponsoring institutions may all have requirements for whether and how data is kept at the end of a project. After the project is over you must determine what to keep, where, and for how long.

Prepare your data for preservation

Before you can preserve your data in a data repository, you must first identify what should be preserved:

  • Data that directly supports published research
  • Data that must be shared as outlined by funder requirements
  • Vulnerable data
  • Data with historical significance and long-term value
  • Accompanying documentation and metadata

Once you have selected the materials to be preserved, you should strive to use file formats that will avoid obsolescence of any particular file format.