Research Data Management

This guide introduces best practices for data management which provide documentation, allow for reproduction of the study, and enable the researcher to share invaluable data with others.

Meeting Grant Requirements

Many federal funding agencies now require researchers to share their data (NSF Data Sharing Policy; browse SPARC's list of article and data sharing requirements by federal agency). If you received a grant from a federal agency, you most likely submitted a data management plan with your proposal so you have already considered where and how you will make your data available.

If you received a grant from another funding organization, you will want to check its policies regarding data sharing. The University of Arkansas Open Access Policy encourages – but does not require – faculty to make their research publicly available. 

Sharing Your Data

Repositories

Making your data available to fellow researchers for replication and reuse allows the results of your study to continue advancing knowledge. Disciplinary repositories offer an efficient, effective means of sharing data with colleagues around the globe. Some funding organizations stipulate the repositories in which grant recipients must place their data; but even if your grant does not require you to do so, consider depositing your data in a repository.

Search lists of multidisciplinary repositories:

Examples of Social Sciences repositories:

  • ICPSR: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research
  • openICPSR
  • QDR: Qualitative Data Repository

Examples of Humanities repositories:

  • NADAC: National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture
  • ART-Dok: Digital Repository of Art History
  • IATH: Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities

 

Journals

Journals often require concurrent publication of articles and accompanying research data. See listings of journal open data policies and social science journals with a research data policy for more information.

Preserving Your Data

Depositing your research data into a repository is one way to make it accessible and reusable for the length of time required by the funding agency. However, this does not insure long-term preservation of your data. Repositories are great for sharing, but not all repositories are equally good for preservation – read the repository policy! You may want to seek out a trusted digital repository with a mission to provide long-term access to digital resources.

A digital preservation plan you create and follow will insure that your data is safe, secure, and accessible after your research project is completed. Technology is an aid, but ongoing preservation tasks must be orchestrated by humans. Digital is not forever – active management of your data requires that you:

  • Select: data that cannot be reproduced, results associated with specific output
  • Maintain: schedule, normalize and migrate file formats, transparent file naming, security
  • Plan: coordinate record transfers with colleagues, file managers, institution

Do not mistake your backup files for a form of digital preservation. There are numerous differences between the two:

Backup Digital Preservation
Data 'snapshot' of specific point in time Complete record of all pertinent information
Quick restoration Restore any lost content
Saved for a week to a few months Saved indefinitely
Files left unattended Files regularly checked for changes, saved in open formats
Storage device may become obsolete/corrupted Storage devices regularly checked, updated as needed

Ultimately, you are responsible for ongoing access to your data and its long-term preservation. 

Releasing Data Involving Human Subjects

Information which, if disclosed, may violate an individual's legal rights or harm the reputation is considered sensitive data. Consequently, if you work with human subjects, you need to take care that your publications and datasets do not contain information by which a person or an organization could be identified. Check the submission guidelines for the journals in which you wish to publish and the repositories in which you may deposit your data. The University of Minnesota's guide provides some tips for managing sensitive data.

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