During the project
As the project proceeds it is important to manage data in a structured way. This makes it easier both during the project and when you face the steps of archiving and making your material available to others.
Persistent file formats
Files should be stored in persistent formats, which makes it easy both to find out what you have done to the data and to reuse it. Files created or stored in formats generated by specific software can sometimes only be opened/used by those special programs. This shortens and limits the use of data, and other research material.
Think about potential consequences of information security, as it is a complex and important matter. Questions related to information security might concern digital preservation, system security and exposure to external/internal threats. Moreover, it could concern collection security such as protecting contents from loss/change, secure access to the material, storage processes, and legal and regulating aspects such as GDPR issues in relation to personal or confidential information in the digital material.
Be sure to structure your data so that it is easy to find and use, during and after your project. A material that is well organised could save amounts of time and effort as you work. There is no need for advanced solutions to be well organised – more simple ways will be sufficient. Go on reading to find out more about different ways to plan and think when starting on a project.
Folder structure and file names
Name your files according to a structure that is intuitive and/or describe the content – details such as date, place, or other things relevant for the material are good to use. Think in the same way as when you are organising files in folders to know what they contain without having to open them. Also reflect upon an easy way of monitoring different versions of your files.
Describe your data in a structured way. It could be a read me-file, a description connected to documents etc. When you upload files in an archive or a similar service, you use a form to describe what they contain. This generates metadata explaining what the amount of data comprises, and how it has been created and analysed. Metadata is also needed for machine management of data, to rediscover and reuse information and details.
Versioning and back-ups
One way of monitoring changes is to create distinct versions of your data files. All relevant files should also be backed up regularly. This is of extra importance when your files are being constructed to prevent a situation where data is being lost or where you need to enter your data all over again. Find out how the data environment works at your department and what support you can get when it comes to back-ups and the storing of data. Do not forget to keep back-ups in a different place should an emergency occur.
An important reason for versioning is provenience (the documentation of data objects’ origin and history). If you state what you have done to the material and someone at a later occasion questions the conclusions of your project, you can demonstrate the versioning and go back to show how it all happened.