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Data Management: Preservation and Open Data

a guide to best practices for curating your research data

Open Data


Open Data is part of the broader Open Access movement, promoting the idea that research, especially publicly funded research, should be made widely available.  This allows for more the more rapid advancement of knowledge.

Open Data is data that is permanently and freely available for the world to use, allowing the maximum exposure and benefit from current research.  



Preserving Your Data

Long-term preservation is the ultimate goal for unique research data - the final stage in the data life cycle.  Considerations for long-term preservation are somewhat different than those for immediate access and dissemination.  Here are some factors to consider:

File Storage 

Files should be backed up regularly and stored in multiple locations.  The UK Data Archive provides further guidance on data storage.   

File Formats and Migration

Because technology changes over time, it is best to store data in the simplest and most widely accepted formats.  Ideally, the files should be:

  • not encrypted (encryption technology may change, and a single error may render an entire encrypted file unreadable)
  • not compressed (compression is a potential source of error and compression technology may change)
  • use a format with an open, documented standard (if the standard is freely available and not controlled by one company or organization, it is likely to persist over time, and interpreters can easily be written for it if technology changes)
  • use a commonly used format (widespread use makes future continuance and compatibility of the format more likely)
  • use a standard encoding, such as ASCII or Unicode

As time passes, file formats will change and files should be migrated to newer formats as necessary.  

Preservation in Repositories

Repositories exist to collect and preserve scholarly information.  Most institutional repositories, based in universities and other organizations, have preservation as an explicit component of their mission, and as such will handle many of the details above after the initial deposit of data.  Consult re3data for a directory of research data repositories, or OpenDOAR for a directory of open access repositories.  There are also many national archives for social science data.  

At Rutgers, RUcore is working on the capability of archiving complex datasets and hopes to make this more widely available soon.

Data Librarian

Laura Palumbo's picture
Laura Palumbo
Library of Science and Medicine
Piscataway, NJ 08854

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