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