Ensuring your research data is well organised and clearly documented WILL make your life easier. At the start of the project, think about using a consistent method for naming files and organising where you will save your data. This will save you time when it comes to analysing your data and writing up your research. Well documented and accessible data will also make your life easier if you want to reuse it on a future project.
There are other reasons to take data management planning seriously. Many research funders require data management planning to be more visible as a condition of project funding. Data management planning is also explicitly referenced in the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
In response to the code, the University is developing guidelines and policies around the management of research data throughout the research lifecycle. To help you prepare, we have created an online Data Management Planning checklist. Once completed, it will provide you with a data management plan that can be used to meet the University's requirements, as well as those that may be required by other funders.
There may be data 'out there' somewhere that you can use for your project, rather than having to generate your own from scratch. We have created a searchable directory to help you find and access this data in the Data Archives.
If you think your project has substantial or specialised storage requirements, you can discuss these with the Research Support team in ITD. There are also some storage options, such as the ARCS Data Fabric, provided by the Federal Government that may be suitable.
Good preservation practice starts at the beginning of your research. Some common problems you may encounter when it comes to being able to access and reuse your own data could be avoided if you consider these questions:
- will you be unable to open a file because of software version changes?
- has storage hardware changed, eg do you have a collection of cassette tapes, floppy or zip disks that you can no longer access because the hardware has changed?
- can you use open format software rather than proprietary products to collect and save your data?
- can you create uncompressed master copies of image and sound files?
- do you have a process for back up to prevent the loss of your data?
At the end of your project, you should think about how your data can be migrated and kept accessible as technology advances (some data archives can take care of this for you if you deposit your data with them). And what will you do with any physical material, such as paper files, photographs, samples?
Completing the Data Management Planning checklist will help you identify the preservation issues relevant to your project. Library staff can provide further advice and guidance for specific projects.
There are many benefits to sharing research data, either during a project with your collaborators, or after a project with other researchers interested in building on your work. As well as increasing your network of potential collaborators, making data available to other researchers to use (and cite) can increase the ongoing impact and influence of your research in the same way your publications do.
You can share your research data by depositing it with a data archive, generally with negotiated access conditions, meaning you retain control over how your data is used. Or, if you don't want to deposit your data with an archive, you could also choose to simply make a description about your data collections available through Research Data Australia (RDA), a national data discovery service. Other researchers can search RDA and then contact you if they are interested in knowing more about your data. Library staff can provide you with guidance and advice on sharing your data through either an archive or RDA.
Consideration for research ethics, participant consent, and data confidentiality should be woven throughout the research project's lifecycle – from project planning, data collection and analysis, through to publication and archiving.
The Library can provide guidance and advice on things like including statements about data sharing and archiving in your participant information and consent forms and how to make data anonymous for archiving, if required.
UTS Library is the national node for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive (ATSIDA) and the NSW node for the Australian Data Archive (ADA) - a collaborative venture across Australian institutions.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss how to access or deposit data with ADA or ATSIDA.