Research data management

Long-term storage and preservation

Digital materials can be unstable and difficult to access or use after decades in storage. A long-term preservation strategy will ensure your data can be found, understood, accessed and used in the future. The University of Sussex also requires researchers to keep their data for at least five years after publication and many funders require a minimum of 10 years. The following guide will help you decide how best to look after your data in the long-term.

Why should data preservation matter to me?

Without effective preservation, your data files run the risk of:

  • being incompatible with future software and as a result unreadable
  • being altered when opened with new software and thus no longer understandable or reliable for continued research
  • being lost as storage media degrades
  • not being understandable if no supporting documentation has survived.

The university also requires that you keep your data for a minimum of 5 years and your funder may require a longer preservation period.

How do I ensure my data is preserved safely?

There are a few steps you can take when creating, organising and storing your data to help it remain useable and understandable for the future:

  • provide useful documentation for future generations so that they can make sense of what you have created
  • back up your work by keeping more than one copy on various storage media
  • periodically move data to new storage media
  • control access to your data so that finalised versions cannot be edited
  • migrate your data to new software versions or use universal file formats that can be easily imported to various software programs.

Ideally you should cover these points in your data management plan (DMP) and factor sufficient time and resources into your project budget. 

Who can help me preserve my data?

Preserving your data can be costly and time-consuming and requires a level of expertise that may not be available in your department. Services such as data archives are available to handle your research outputs for you.

Sussex Research Data Repository

The University has its own research data repository called Figshare.  This is a free resource for Sussex researchers to make their research data freely available online under licence.  All data in the repository is stored in a system called Arkivum that keeps three seperate copies of the data in seperate geographic locations.  Data kept in Arkivum is continually monitored and preserved for a minimum of 10 years.  See here for more information about the Sussex Research Data Repository.

Data centres/archives

Data centres/archives receive and look after research data and where appropriate, share data with approved users. Some research funders, such as the Economic and Social Research Council, recommend or expect data to be deposited in a designated data centre for long term preservation. Examples of data centres include the UK Data Archive for Social SciencesArchaeology Data Service, Dryad Digital Repository and Visual Art Data Service (VADS).