Bootcamp: Creating data

Creating data
Section 5 of 8

building blocks

One aspect of data management planning which you should consider carefully is the choice of format in which you will store your data. In some cases the format of your data files will be dictated by the computer software that you use, though in most cases you may have to choose between a variety of formats. When choosing file formats you will need to consider the following:

  • How you plan to analyse, sort, and store your data
  • Which software and file formats you and your colleagues have used in the past
  • Any discipline-specific norms or technical standards (and the associated peer-to-peer support that comes with them)
  • Whether file formats are at risk of obsolescence, because of new versions or their dependence on particular technology. 'Open' formats are better because they can be used by anyone and supported by any software developer, free of charge. This makes their rapid¬†obsolescence very unlikely
  • Which formats are best to use for the long-term preservation of data
  • Whether important information might be lost by converting¬†between different formats
  • Bear in mind that you may be better off using one format for data collection and analysis and converting your data to another format for sharing, once your project is complete
  • Apart from the practical process of creating files there are other important issues that you will need to address when creating or collecting data, including intellectual property rights, data protection and ethics.

    As a member of the University you may have the opportunity to disseminate your work through commercial channels for greater economic or social impact. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) (for example, copyright or patents) affect the ways in which both you and others can use your research outputs. Failure to clarify these rights before creating data can impose unexpected limitations on your research, its dissemination, any future related research projects, and any associated profit or credit. The University's Research and Enterprise Development (RED) Team will be able to advise you in this important area.

    If you intend to work with human subjects during your research project then you have a duty to ensure that any data you gather and subsequently use is handled correctly. Ethical guidelines are issued by funding organisations and also produced by the University. In addition, laws which govern the processing of personal data (such as the Data Protection Act 2018) must be adhered to. Make sure to seek out advice and guidance from the Office of the University Secretary, and RED.

    1. Which of the following factors would usually count against using a particular piece of software, in the context of publicly-funded research?