Research data management

Selecting what to keep

As a researcher you might be tempted to keep every piece of data in case it proves valuable for future use. However, storing large amounts of data costs money and requires staff hours. The following guide will help you to make important decisions such as what to keep and what to discard.

What does selection involve?

Selection involves deciding what data you can keep and what can be disposed of. This is likely to involve a level of subjective judgement as nobody knows exactly what information is going to be wanted in the future.

The best approach is to think carefully, abide by policies (e.g. from funders) and document any decisions made and the reasons for them. 

Why can't I keep all my data?

  • Storing everything costs money and requires staff effort/hours.
  • Storing massive amounts of excess data also makes finding the truly useful material a difficult process.
  • Freedom of Information laws mean that what is kept needs to be disclosed if requested.

How do I know what to keep and what to delete?

When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, consider the following points:

  • What data does my funder or the university require me to keep?
  • Is the data 'vital' to the project or organisation?
  • Do I have the legal and intellectual property rights to keep and re-use this data?
  • Is there sufficient documentation to explain the data, and allow the data or record to be found wherever it ends up being stored?
  • If I need to pay to keep the data, can I afford it?