Data Management Frequently Asked Questions

Find below quick answers to the most important research data management questions.

Please note that this section will be built through consultation, feedback and discussion while we develop our RDM services.

1. Data basics

1.1.What is research data?

1.2. What is the research data lifecycle?

1.3 What is metadata?

1.4 Who owns research data?

2. Funder expectations

2.1 What are my funder's expectations for data management?

2.2 What does Lancaster University expect in terms of data management?

3. Data Management Plans (DMPs)

3.1 What is a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

3.2 Do I need to complete a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

3.3 I am internally funded. Do I still need a Data Management Plan?

3.4 What should be in a Data Management Plan DMP?

3.5 Where can I go for help and advice in writing a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

4. Storage

4.1 Where can I store my working data?

4.2 Can I use Dropbox / Google Drive etc to store my data?

4.3 How can I back up my data?

4.4 What is the encryption standard that is recommended for my PC or Mac?

5. Preservation & sharing

5.1 Should I share my data?

5.2 Shall I deposit my data to a funder's data centre?

5.3 Can I deposit my data into Pure?

5.4 If I have to deposit in a discipline-specific repository as required by my funder, do I also have to deposit in Pure?  

5.5 How do I select data for long-term preservation?

5.6 How long do I need to preserve my data?

5.7 I developed code as part of my research. Do I need to share it?

 

1. Data basics

1.1 What is research data?

A useful definition of what research data is comes from the University of Melbourne:

“Research Data are facts, observations or experiences on which an argument, theory or test is based.  Data may be numerical, descriptive or visual.  Data may be raw or analysed, experimental or observational.  Data includes:  laboratory notebooks; field notebooks; primary research data (including research data in hardcopy or in computer readable form); questionnaires; audiotapes; videotapes; models; photographs; films; test responses.  Research collections may include slides; artefacts; specimens; samples. “

Here is a list of types of research data:

  • Results of experiments or simulations
  • Statistics and measurements
  • Models and software
  • Observations eg fieldwork
  • Survey results – print or online
  • Interview recordings and transcripts, and coding applied to these
  • Images, from cameras and scientific equipment
  • Textual source materials and annotations.

Please note that not all the data you create needs to be preserved. See our Data Selection guide to find out more.

 

1.2 What is the research data lifecycle?

Generally speaking, research data is created, processed, analysed and preserved before it gets re-used and the lifecycle might start again.

The management of research data will involve different activities of researchers and support staff during different stages of your research.  The research data lifecycle reflects how your research data has been managed at each stage in the research lifecycle. 

Research Data Lifecycle examples:

See also our Research Data Lifecycle webpage

 

1.3 What is metadata?

In order for your data to be used properly by you, your colleagues, and other researchers in the future, they must be documented.  This data documentation is also known as metadata. It enables you understand your data in detail and will enable other researchers to find, use and properly cite your data.

Three broad categories of metadata are:

  1. Descriptive - common fields such as title, author, abstract, keywords.
  2. Administrative - preservation, rights management, and technical metadata about formats.
  3. Structural - how different components of a set of associated data relate to one another, such as tables in a database.

Learn more on our Documentation and Metadata website.

 

1.4 Who owns research data?

That depends if you are a student (eg postgraduate or PhD student) or academic staff. The general principles are:

  • The student as creator of the work first owns any intellectual property he or she creates unless a contractual agreement with a third party specifies otherwise.
  • For Lancaster University staff, the University normally owns the data.
  • If your research is externally funded your funder might specify the assignment of IPR.

If you have questions about your IPR please consult the Research & Enterprise Services at Lancaster University. 

 

2. Funder expectations

2.1 What are my funder's expectations for data management?

This really depends on your funder although it is fair to say that in line with the principle of RCUK that “publicly funded research data are a public good” an increasing number of funding bodies will have data policies. These will cover topics such as documentation of data collection and creation, access to data, long-term preservation of data as well as where research data should be deposited.  Many funding bodies now require data management plans to be submitted as part of grant applications, although the format and content of these plans can differ between funders. You can find out more on the funders’ data policy website of the Digital Curation Centre (DCC).

But remember even where no specific demands are made regarding data management, it is likely that funders will respond more positively to applications which have clear plans for managing, preserving and sharing their data.

See more on our Funder expectations webpage.

 

2.2 What does Lancaster University expect in terms of data management?

Generally, the University expects researchers to manage their data in such a way that they:

  • Ensure research data and records are accurate, complete, authentic and reliable;
  • Meet funding body grant requirements;
  • Ensure that confidentiality and anonymisation requirements are achieved;
  • Comply with the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information legislation;
  • Maximise research efficiency by enabling others to use the data;
  • Minimise the risk of data loss (eg by data backup).

(Research Data Management Policy (doc), February 2013).

The University expects that "each project will have a data management plan that is produced at funding application stage or at the beginning of the project". This means that:

  • If you write a Data Management Plan for your Funding Body you do not need to write a separate DMP for the University.
  • If your funding body does not require a Data Management Plan or you are self-funded you are required to produce a Data Management Plan. You can use the DMPonline tool to get a template and guidance.

 

3. Data Management Plans (DMPs)

3.1 What is a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

A data management plan (DMP) outlines what and how data will be created or collected and how it will be shared and preserved. A DMP also outlines your plans for sharing and preserving data in the longer-term. A DMP can be adapted as a project advances and it should be reviewed regularly as your data needs change.

A number of research funders require you to complete a DMP as part of the application process. Funders do not usually ask for a lengthy DMP. For example, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) DMPs should be no more than three pages long and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) require a one page outline DMP with the initial application.

Learn more on our Data Management webpage.

 

3.2 Do I need to complete a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

  • The short answer is yes, you do need a Data Management Plan (DMP). The University expects that "each project will have a data management plan that is produced at funding application stage or at the beginning of the project". (Research Data Management Policy (doc), February 2013)
  • If your research is supported by one of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) you are required to include a statement in your published paper on how and on what terms any underlying data can be accessed by third parties.
  • Most funders will ask you to write a Data Management Plan (DMP) as part of your grant application. Oxford University has collected funder requirements. Up-to-date information on funders’ data policies is also available from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC).
  • Note that some funders, including NERC and some Horizon 2020 grants, require more detailed data management plans to be submitted after a project has started.

 Learn more on our Data Management webpage.

 

3.3 I am internally funded. Do I still need a Data Management Plan?

  • Even if a data management plan is not required as part of the application process for your project it is good practice to produce a written data management plan that sets out how you will deal with these issues. It will also save you time in the long-run.
  • Your Directors of Research or Research Office or other Departmental Staff may be able to look over your data management plan to make sure that it is in line with the standards expected in your discipline.

Learn more on our Data Management webpage.

 

3.4 What should be in a Data Management Plan DMP?

Each data management plan template is slightly different.  In general however, they all expect the following:

  1. Researcher and research context
  2. Data Types, Formats,
  3. Standards and Capture Methods
  4. Ethics and intellectual property
  5. Access, Data Sharing and Re-Use
  6. Short term storage and data management
  7. Deposit and long-term storage
  8. Resourcing
  9. Training and Support

 Learn more on our Data Management Plan webpage.

 

3.5 Where can I go for help and advice in writing a Data Management Plan (DMP)?

If your research is funded by one of the major funding providers (eg RCUK, EU Horizon 2020, National Science Foundation USA) you can use an online template provided by DMP Online. This service, sponsored by the Digital Curation Centre and Jisc, is a useful tool that guides you through the different sections that funders expect you to fill in.

You can also create a generic DMP if your funder is not listed.

 Learn more on our Data Management Plan webpage.

 

4. Storage

4.1 Where can I store my working data?

Lancaster University provides storage space for diverse data needs.  provides safe, secure, networked storage which is backed up each night. You can use it on campus or connect to filestore via .

There are 3 types of filestore available:

All staff including researchers are allocated a default “personal” filestore (your H:Drive) of 1Gb. Your personal filestore might be suitable to store your working data if your data files:

  • Are relatively small
  • The data do not need to be shared with your Lancaster colleagues

  • Server-based filestore is available to meet the specific requirements of research projects. Large-scale data sets can be securely stored, preserved and archived in accordance with the University's Research Data Policy. Those researchers requiring larger research dedicated filestore (500GB and more) can discuss options with ISS.
  • If you want to enquire about research data storage options contact ISS via their Help and Support pages (phone or email).

  • Departmental filestore can be used to share data between colleagues in the same department, faculty or for cross faculty collaborations. You can get in touch with the administration of your Department to check if this is an appropriate option for your needs.

If you do use your laptop or other memory holding device to store data temporarily, please ensure it is encrypted.  All University provided laptops should be encrypted – contact ISS Service Desk to arrange encryption if needed.

Learn more on our Data Storage guide.

 

4.2 Can I use Dropbox / Google Drive etc to store my data?

  • Cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive is a convenient option to access files across devices. However, the University discourages the use of Cloud based storage solutions for anything but the most public of data.
  • Cloud storage may not be stored within the EU and may not be subject to our levels of data protection (remember that all personal information must, by law, be stored within the EU). There is a risk of who could access the files, as they are no longer within your control.  Data on commercial cloud services is also not necessarily backed up.
  • Cloud storage might be an option for the above mentioned "public" data classified as "Ordinary" by the University's Information Classifications (pdf). 

 Learn more on our Data Storage guide.

 

4.3 How can I back up my data?

  • We recommend to store the master copy of all important data on the University's filestore systems. All options, personal filestore (your H:Drive), departmental filestore and research data storage are backed up each night.
  • We advise you NOT to rely on local solutions such as USB sticks or external hard drives for backup purposes. If you use laptop or desktop computers use University filestore as the primary storage option for your data. 
  • For example, if you work on your laptop and modify data while travelling you should update your master copy of your data on the University filestore as soon as you can (on campus or via ).
  • We do not encourage researchers to use ad hoc solutions or to rely upon consumer devices (external hard drives, USB sticks etc) for backup purposes.
  • Please note that all University provided laptops should be encrypted – contact ISS Service Desk to arrange encryption if needed.

Learn more on our Security and Backup guide.

 

4.4 What is the encryption standard that is recommended for my PC or Mac?

  • For Windows machines or for all drives that are being accessed by Windows operating systems (eg external hard drives, USB sticks) Bitlocker is the is the preferred encryption method recommended by ISS.
  • For Macs the recommended encryption method  is FileVault 2, which is included in all versions of IO 10.9.

If you have any questions regarding encryption of your data please get in touch with ISS who are happy to help. 

 

5. Preservation & sharing

5.1 Should I share my data?

In its Research Data Management Policy (Word) Lancaster University encourages all researchers to record, store and archive their data appropriately and maximise research efficiency by enabling others to use the data.

However, sharing of research data might not be appropriate if ethical considerations, participant confidentiality, FOI requirements or external agencies eg NHS need to be considered.

Please find out more at our Preserve & Share guide.

 

5.2 Shall I deposit my data to a funder's data centre?

Yes, if your funder runs or supports a data centre this is where you should deposit your research data.

Check in your funder's Terms and Conditions if you are required to deposit your data in a specific data archive. For a quick overview you of the main funding bodies consult the DCC's table. If you have a Data Management Plan for your research project you should have stated where you intend to deposit your data. Please have a look at our Preserve & Share guide.

5.3 Can I deposit my data into Pure?

The University aims to make valuable datasets created by Lancaster Researchers more visible and accessible. Soon, Pure will include a new "content type" and be able to handle information about data and datasets (metadata) as well. This will be a valuable part of your research project's documentation. We also working on ways how to make Pure to be able to ingest the data files themselves. The data will the be safely stored and be discoverable through the Pure Research Portal.

We will keep you up to date on our Data and Pure page. Please also consult the Pure Support website.

 

5.4 If I have to deposit in a discipline-specific repository as required by my funder, do I also have to deposit in Pure?  

No. Depositing your data in one data archive or repository as required by your funder is sufficient.

However, the University expects you to have the metadata about your data in Pure including a persistent link (DOI, Handle) to the data set. 

Please consult the Pure Support website for more information.

 

5.5 How do I select data for long-term preservation?

Not all the data you have collected will be suitable for long term preservation. As a guideline you should only preserve the data that was used to generate your research publications. For example if you haven taken 200 photos during your research but only 80 have been used in your research publications only these 80 images should be preserved. Please consult our data selection guide for more information.

 

5.6 How long do I need to preserve my data?

Lancaster University's Research Data Management Policy (Word) states "that all research data will be stored in either electronic or paper form for a minimum of 10 years after the end of a project, unless ethical considerations, participant confidentiality, FOI requirements or external agencies eg NHS, specifically require otherwise."

However, your funding body might have issued certain requirements as part of the grant conditions. Generally, if your funder's data policy covers long-term curation, the expected periods for preservation range from 3 years to 10+ years.

Learn more on our Preserve & Share webpages.

 

5.7 I developed code as part of my research. Do I need to share it?

Most funders will consider code or software as research outputs and code should be shared with as few restrictions as possible, subject to any delays relating to intellectual property as necessary.

 

Contact RDM

For  any other questions contact rdm@lancaster.ac.uk