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Data Management


Best Practices in Data Management

Resources for researchers required to design a data management plan or who need assistance in data research.


Using best practices through all stages of working with data will ensure the accessibility and longevity of your data.

Best Practices in Data Management

Even if one is not required by your funding agency, developing a data management plan (DMP) at the beginning of a new project will inform good practice throughout the data cycle. The following practices are fundamental to effective data management and can be applied to all disciplines:

The Data Management Plan:

  • Adhere to the guidelines set by any funding agencies and institutions that are sponsoring the research.
    • For examples of such guidelines, go here.
    • For examples of completed DMPs, go here.
  • Complete your DMP early so that it will not be sidelined when you start collecting data.
  • The minimum expenses to include when calculating your data management costs are: data creation, processing, analysis, storage, sharing, and preservation.

Data Storage:

  • To prevent data from being lost to incompatibility, store it as formats and on hardware that are open standard, not proprietary.
Type of Data Recommended Format Avoid These Formats
Plain Text .txt .docx, .doc, .rtf
Tabular Text .csv, .tsv .xlsx, .xls
Image .jp2, .tiff .jpg, .psd
Documents .pdf/a, .epub .azw
Archiving .zip .rar
Storage Cloud CD-Rom

Data Documentation:

  • Use metadata to record details about a study such as
    • its context
    • the dates of data collections
    • data collection methods, etc.
  • If possible, use an established metadata standard appropriate to your field.

Ethical Issues:

Sharing Data:

  • Archived data sets should include the metadata in a readme file that contains all pertinent details of the study.
  • When you are ready to deposit your data, do so in an archive that is public and appropriate for your discipline. Consult your subject bibliographer if you need assistance locating or preparing a submission to an archive.
Archive/Repository Examples
Subject/Discipline Example Archive/Repository
Ecology Dryad
DNA Sequences GenBank
Chemistry Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre
Social Sciences ICPSR

Data Sharing and Management Snafu

A data management horror story by Karen Hanson, Alisa Surkis and Karen Yacobucci.

Additional Information on Best Practices