Access Your Data

Do you always work in the same office or lab? Are you always on campus? If not, you'll need remote access to your data. Find below advice on how to access your data from various locations.

Few researchers always work in the same location, so you might have to think about how you access your data remotely. You will probably also be sharing files with others, either as part of a project or through routine information. See our guidance on sharing with colleagues below. In addition to accessing your own data, you may want to access existing sources of data and make sure you are familiar with our guidance below on how to store your data. Once you have accessed other data sets you might like to cite them in your publication. See our data citation page below to learn more.

Accessing your work on campus

The easiest way to access your work will be on your office computer. If your office computer is connected to the internet you will have access to your personal filestore (H: Drive), departmental filestore and research data storage (if you have been allocated some). 

So long as you are a member of the University, you will also be able to access your work on the PC Labs on our campus.

Accessing your work off campus

Researchers can access their personal filestore (H: drive) and both personal filestore and departmental shared filestore via the Virtual Private Network (VPN). Staff can access their Office computers remotely (as if sitting in front of the computer) using remote desktop software.

ISS have an extensive guide on how to work off campus on Lancaster Answers.

Tab Content: Share data with colleagues

In a collaborative research project it is possible that a number of individuals may require access to the data — potentially with different privileges to read, write, update or delete.

How can I collaborate on research data?

Is your data fit for sharing?

How and with whom you can share your data depends on the nature of your data: does it include personal data, is it confidential or in any way restricted?

The University has developed a Policy on Categorising and Protecting University Information Assets (.docx) that grades data and advises on storage and transfer of information. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the Policy, especially the information classifications:

  • Ordinary
  • Confidential
  • Restricted
  • Personal

How can I share folders with research data?

If you want to share folders containing research data with other Lancaster colleagues, you will need to request research data storage. Find more about this in our data storage guide. You can request that the storage folder be shared with Lancaster colleagues.

If you need to share data with colleagues outside Lancaster, we recommend using Box. Please also check our summary below to see which method of data transfer is adequate.

What is Box?

Box is Lancaster University’s solution for secure online storage. Box is an enterprise cloud storage solution that is available to all members of the University. Box uses high-grade encryption to secure data, both in transit and at rest. Box is certified by a number of external bodies as demonstrating secure practices and technologies and technologies and adheres to the adequate protection requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive.

Please note that the maximum size of a single file is 5GB. The total storage size is 1TB per user.

Can I use Box to store and share my working data?

Using Box is the preferred way to share data with colleagues within and outside of the University. There are a number of ways that data can be shared with external parties using Box, and it is the data owner’s responsibility to ensure that this is done correctly and in accordance with the data type.

Box offers users the ability to share data with external users through unique links. These can (and should) be set to require a strong password (that should be communicated using an alternative method to how the link is sent, such as phone or text). Users can also specify how long the link is active for and whether the data can be download or simply viewed. The user access of the document uses high-grade transport encryption.

More information about how to use Box is available.

What can I use for secure information transfer?

There are a number of methods available for you to use — the choice of the transfer method would depend on the information classification and circumstances, such as whether is it paper based information, whether you want to transfer information between departments on campus (internally), or whether your department has any extra rules/regulations that you need to consider.

The table below summarises some possible transfer methods, depending on information classification:

Information ClassificationSending externallySending internally
Ordinary
Confidential
Restricted
  • LU Box.
  • Encrypt and send using ZendTo.
  • Emailing not recommended — if no other alternative, must encrypt.
  • LU Box.
  • Shared folders or SharePoint site with appropriate access permissions.
  • ZendTo.
  • Emailing not recommended — if no other alternative, must encrypt.
Personal

Are the recipients registered as Data Processors? Are they allowed to have this information? Compliance team can offer advice.

Is it possible to remove information (e.g. names) and send non-personally identifiable information (e.g. ID number)?

  • LU Box (encrypt sensitive personal data before upload)
  • Encrypt and send using ZendTo.
  • Emailing not recommended — if no other alternative, must encrypt personal information before emailing.
Is it possible to remove information (e.g. names) and send non-personally identifiable information (e.g. ID number)?
  • LU Box (encrypt sensitive personal data before upload).
  • ZendTo (must encrypt sensitive personal data before upload).
  • Shared folders or SharePoint site with appropriate access permissions.
  • Emailing not recommended — if no other alternative:
    • Encryption required if contains personal information of more than one person*
    • Encryption recommended if it’s about an individual and sent internally*

* Depending on the content of the information you are transferring, you need to apply a sensible/realistic level of protection.

How can I encrypt data with personal information and send it to a colleague at another university?

  • The reconditions for sending personal data outside of campus would be to encrypt the files first and then use a service such as LU Box or ZendTo to transfer.
  • The only recommended solution is the encryption of individual documents using the built-in encryption of office products. If it is just a document you are sending, then this encrypted file should be uploaded to one of the services above and then the password of the encrypted file should be communicated over a different channel such as a telephone call or text message (not an email).
  • If you need to send something other than an Microsoft Office file or a collection of files, ISS advises using 7-Zip which should be set to use AES-256.

Tab Content: Access other data

Whether you want to find data to reuse for your research, or archive your own data for the long-term, you'll need to know what data archive services are available in your field.

You might like to build your research on data already available or to complement or enrich your own research.

Data centres

There are many data services available, depending on your research area, and the list is growing. Here are some links to places you can search for data across a number of archives, and places you can find lists of specific archives to search.

Funding bodies with their own data centres

Other data centres or directories

  • Data.gov.uk, UK government public data
  • OpenDOAR, the Directory of Open Access Repositories
  • Registry of Research Data Repositories, a catalogue of research data repositories
  • DataCite, an international not-for-profit organisation which aims to improve visibility of data
  • Figshare, a general purpose repository including data sets
  • Zenodo, another general purpose repository for all fields of science. Zenodo accepts closed access uploads.

Use of third party data

If you use data owned by a third party (copyright material, software or database), you need to understand the terms under which these are obtained and the scope of use. It is necessary to obtain permission from the data owner for re-use of such material, unless conditions of re-use have been explicitly indicated, for example, with a Creative Commons licence.

If you use data from one of the data centres mentioned above, they will have clear license agreements. Please familiarise yourself with any terms and conditions. You may also find that the terms of use of some data services, such as Census statistics, require you to deposit derived work with them. When depositing data in a repository you will be required to agree to a licence that asserts you have the rights to deposit that data.

Please note that you might have to specify the use of existing data in your data management plan.

Tab Content: Data citation

Just as researchers routinely provide a bibliographic reference to sources such as journal articles, reports and conference papers, data citation is the practice of providing reference to datasets.

Why cite data?

Researchers should cite data in just the same way that you can cite other sources of information, such as articles and books.

Data citation can help by:

  • Enabling easy reuse and verification of data;
  • Allowing the impact of data to be tracked; and
  • Creating a scholarly structure that recognises and rewards data producers.

Is data citation the same as citing published papers?

While there are established conventions for citing published papers, the accepted forms and content of data citations are not always as clear, especially when the data are published online. Conventions are expected to solidify as more and more data become available online.

In terms of where a citation of data should be put there are two main places: within the text of the article and in the reference list. Within the text of the article, the citation should provide sufficient information to identify the data citation in the reference list.

There is no consensus on format and components for citations of electronic data. Emerging conventions vary by discipline, but there are common elements within these conventions.

Common elements of data citation

Lancaster University recommends using a recognised citation approach such as that of DataCite. The suggested format of DataCite is:

  • Creator(s) (The main researchers involved in producing the data, or the authors of the publication, in priority order)
  • Publication Year (the date when the dataset was published or released rather than the collection or coverage date)
  • Title (including the edition or version number, if applicable)
  • Publisher (the Data Centre or University/Institute that holds, archives, publishes, prints, distributes, releases, issues, or produces the resource)
  • Identifier (For citation purposes DataCite recommends using a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), a linkable, permanent URL)

Data citation examples

Examples taken from DataCite.

Citation formatting service

Use the DOI Citation Formatter, a service created in collaboration with CrossRef, to format your citation. This will ensure you adopt the correct format for your needs.

Challenges of data citation

  • Valuable datasets are often those which are long term, and still being updated. How is it possible to cite a dataset that is still being changed and added to (a "dynamic dataset")?
  • Datasets can be enormous and may have hundreds or thousands of collaborators. If you only want to cite a smaller subsection (a "microcitation"), it is often difficult to identify the authors who need credit.

Such challenges are currently being discussed by interested parties and stakeholders such the Research Data Alliance’s Data Citation Working Group or the CODATA Task Group on Data Citation.