What is preservation?
Why does preservation matter to me?
What should I do about preservation?
Who can help me preserve my data?
Who can help me with preservation at the University of Glasgow?
In the context of data management, data preservation refers to the process of maintaining access to data so that it can still be found, understood and used in the future.
Saving your data in one or more places does not guarantee its longevity. Making back-ups is a good way to keep data available in the short term, but preservation means active management in the long-term.
Without effective preservation, you run the risk of:
- Formats not being compatible with future software and files being unreadable;
- Files altered when opened with new software so they are no longer be understandable or reliable for continued research;
- Storage media (particularly portable) degrading and materials being lost;
- Data not being understandable as there is no supporting documentation which has survived.
As a researcher, you are required by the University to retain your data for 10+ years. Your funder requirements may vary.
When creating, organising and storing your data, take a few initial steps to help your data remain useable and understandable for the future:
- Provide useful documentation on your data so that it can be understood in the future;
- Back-up your data by keeping more than one copy on a variety of storage media;
- Periodically move data to new storage media;
- Control access so changes can't be made to finalised versions of the data
- Migrate data to new software versions, or use a format that can easily be imported to various software programs.
Ideally this should be covered in a data management plan at the start of a project, so that you can factor any associated time and resources into your budget - see our guidance on data planning.
Preserving your data can be costly and time-consuming, and requires a level of expertise which may not be available within your team or School. There are services available which can handle the preservation of research outputs for you.
Repositories hold and maintain copies of published papers, and in some cases even data, for a specific community. See the Repositories page for more information.
The University of Glasgow has its own repositories, Enlighten: Research Data, which holds research datasets produced by university researchers and which often underpin publications, and Enlighten: Research Publications, which holds copies of published papers produced by university staff. The Enlighten webpages explain the benefits of depositing, how to deposit and clarify associated copyright issues.
Data centres or archives receive and look after research data. Where appropriate, data is shared with approved users. In some cases, funders recommend or expect that data is passed to a designated data centre for long term preservation. Examples of data centres include the UK Data Archive for Social Sciences data, the Natural Environment Research Council’s data centres, The Depot (JISC's repository), Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) and the Oxford Text Archive.
Preservation [PDF, 103 KB, 10 pages]
Detailed preservation guidance from the University of Portsmouth.
Data centres and repositories can help with preservation. Consult experts in your discipline if possible, or contact the University Research Data Management Service.