Research data While there is no single definition of data, research data can generally be defined as any representation or objects that are created or gathered for the purposes of producing research and scholarship and informing practice and which can be used to validate or reproduce original research findings.
So the underlying research materials/data which support published research findings can be described as research data.
While we are mainly concerned with data which underpins published research findings, there is a lot of other material that is produced in order to engage with your audience and in your disciplinary practice that does not necessarily fall into this category. You might write blogs and producing content in a variety of forms in your field of practice, and via a variety of digital platforms, social media and channels, including at conferences, so publicising the outcomes of your research activity is not restricted to traditional publications such as books and journals.
Research data can cover a diversity of form and content: including any of these…
In the widest sense data objects can be physical or print as well as digital.
If your data is to be useful to others it must be of a certain quality and must be well-described.
There are many interconnected and sometimes conflicting factors that require you to manage data in a certain way.
Quality & Security Ensuring the integrity and reproducibility of your research Ensuring research findings are based on sound data with accurate metadata and documentation, i.e. the contextual information about the data Ensures that research data and records are accurate, complete, authentic and reliable Enhancing data security and minimising the risk of data loss. Efficiency Increasing your research efficiency by saving time and resources Preventing duplication of effort by enabling others to use your data, perhaps even yourself. Access, Re-use & Recognition – Open Data (public good) and Open Research (integrity) Facilitating future research by allowing others to build on or add to your research data. Increased citations of research data and of publications based on that data. Compliance University policy Meeting funding body grant requirements Meeting publisher requirements for data access
European Commission’s position on open research data is one way to look at how these factors might be balanced.
What you decide to do, what and how you share your data will heavily depend on what is the accepted practice in your field, as well as the requirements of any funders and your plan to publish your findings.
You do not want to release all of your data which you have worked hard for before you publish your findings. However you may choose to publish the data with the publication, or if and your colleagues in the research project have far more data than time to write up/analyse it, you could release the data. These are just a few example scenarios, so it does depend on your individual and group circumstances.
RCUK policy – “Publicly funded research data are a public good, produced in the public interest, which should be made openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner”
Planning at the beginning, for active data management and provisions for sharing and archiving for the future.
Research involving living individuals has some clear implications in terms of complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This is a checklist of specific issues you should consider to assess whether a project proposal meets the ethical requirements of data protection.
When you finish your thesis it will be hosted on the publications repository, and you can apply embargo conditions, unless it contains confidential or patent material.
You can link records on the publications repository to material on Figshare and vice versa using DOIs.
When submitting an article to a publisher, if your publisher asks you or if you want to do it anyway, you can upload your data to figshare, mint i.e. reserve a DOI – and cite that DOI in the article.
A multi-purpose digital platform for research materials, together with the other strands of the project, forms part of a digital curation infrastructure which includes long term preservation of all the material uploaded to it.
Managing your research data webinar
Managing your Research Data
Research Information Manager
• Slides available:
Researcher Development Programme
What type of
data/material will you be
Digital text /
Digital art Digital images Visualisations
GIS datasets /
Tabular data Simulations
Models Databases Combinations
Data management plan
templates are available on
Funder-specific or general
template for non-funded
projects are available
Assessment of existing data
• Explanation of the existing data sources that will be used by
the research project, with references
• Consider copyright in third party data and seek adequate
permissions for use and future publication – you may need to
budget for copyright clearance fees for proprietary data
• To discover existing data try https://www.re3data.org/
(Registry of data repositories); http://data.bl.uk/;
• Some similarity with conducting a literature review
• Analysis of the gaps identified between the currently available
and required data for the research
Information on new data
• Provide information on the data that will be
produced or accessed by the research
project, including the type of data.
• Where possible use open file formats which
are more durable for long term access.
Quality assurance of data
• Describe the procedures for quality assurance that
will be carried out on the data collected at the time of
data collection, data entry, digitisation and data
• How will you prevent errors from entering or
remaining in a dataset? Common errors may include
inaccurate data entered in a dataset as a result of
mistyping or inadequate documentation of data due
to human error or anomalies in the field
• File naming consistency, folder organization and
maintaining version control contributes to quality
assurance and accuracy as well as efficiency
Backup and security of data
• Describe the data backup procedures that you will
adopt to ensure the data and metadata are securely
stored during the lifetime of the project
• Maintain regular backups of your data, test that the
backups are recoverable and usable, specify locations
where the data and backups will be stored
• For sensitive/confidential data, encryption, password
protection and physical security must be put in place
• Follow the 3-2-1 principle: 3 copies of important stuff,
2 different media; 1 in a different geographical
location. Some constraints apply when managing
personal data (see later)
Management and curation of data
• Outline your plans for preparing, organising and
• Documentation provides information about how and
why the data was created, what its content and
structure are, and what alterations it has undergone
• If data is undocumented, it may become impossible
for you or someone else to understand and re-use the
data later on
• Metadata should be sufficient to allow others to
understand what research data exists, why when and
how it was generated, and how to access it.
• How will you share your data when
publishing your findings?
• Via a repository? Journal supplementary
material? A project website? Or upon
• If you expect obstacles to sharing your data,
explain which and the possible measures you
can apply to overcome these.
Personal data and confidentiality
• Make explicit mention of the planned procedures to
handle consent for data sharing for data obtained from
human participants, and/or how to anonymise data, to
make sure that data can be made available and accessible
for future scientific research
• This forms part of conducting research ethically and
lawfully and part of maintaining research integrity
• Privacy and data protection particularly applies to human
participants in your research
• Additionally confidentiality of data may need to be
maintained to protect individuals or under
contracts/agreements and for some government or
Consent Obviously you are obtaining consent from your participants but is that consent fully
informed? Are you telling participants all the ways you might be using their data, where it
is being stored, who is handling it and if it is being shared with any third party. Ultimately,
the drive of the legislation is for organisations (known as data controllers) are as
transparent with individuals (known as data subjects) as possible so they have the
opportunity to exercise their individual rights properly.
Is the project only collecting the minimum amount of personal data needed in order to
achieve its research objectives? There should be an avoidance of collecting extra data ‘just
in case’ or that might be interesting but is not directly within the parameters of answering
the research question.
What tools/databases/systems are you actually going to use to store the data you collect?
Do you have control over who can gain access to this? If the data is being stored externally
or ‘in the cloud’ does the third party host have strong security controls in place? Is the data
being hosted in the EU? Have you consulted any subject matter experts to determine the
compliance of the tools/databases/systems you are going to use?
When you are presenting your findings, is the personal data that constitute them being
anonymised? If not is there a justifiable reason why individuals need to be identified?
Have you determined how long personal data needs to be kept after the final research has
been published? Have you consulted any external guidance from professional bodies or
other experts in the field? Do you actually have a practical way of managing retention e.g.
a way to actually delete data and an individual that will be responsible for this?
Copyright + intellectual property
• State who will own the copyright and IPR of
any new data that you will generate
• If unsure or you require more advice, contact
the University’s Copyright Officer, Kate Vasili
and the Research and Knowledge Transfer
• State how your data will be archived and
preserved for future reuse
• There may be a suitable discipline/domain
specific repository where your data can be
hosted (check https://www.re3data.org/) or
deposit your data in
• Plan for any future costs for long-term data
storage and preservation.
• Outline responsibilities for data management
within research teams and at all partner
• Keep the plan up to date