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Data Management Planning

Data Management Plans and Checklists

Research Data Management

Good practice in data management is required to maintain reliable and accurate data throughout the data's lifecycle. Good data management will also facilitate data re-use after completion of the project and enable others to replicate research outcomes into the future. Raising awareness of good practice for data management starts with planning.

Data Management Plans

A data management plan is a document outlining how research data and associated materials will be managed, stored, documented and secured throughout a research project as well as planning for what will happen to the data and materials after completion of the project. This includes retention and disposal, archiving, accessing, sharing or publishing the data, and any conditions or restrictions for sharing the data. The plan is intended to provide descriptive details of the data, the processes, decisions, as well as identifying roles and responsibilities.

The following templates are provided to assist with the development of a data management plan. The templates address the main broad issues for consideration during the planning stage, for example:

  • data that will be produced or created
  • documentation about the data, metadata, and any supporting information
  • arrangements for data storage, security and backup including: location, processes, frequencies and responsibilities
  • ethics, copyright and IP considerations and requirements
  • arrangements for access, sharing and re-use of the data
  • retention and disposal arrangements including any legislative requirements
  • arrangements for preservation and archiving of the data to ensure access over time

Data Management Plan – Template (version 1)

Version 1 of the template is based on a format of 56 short question and answers covering the broad areas of data management that are identified above. The author can determine the amount of information to include, however addressing all relevant issues will create a more robust data management plan.

Download Word (.doc) version

Download Rich Text Format (.rtf) version

Data Management Plan – Template (version 2)

Version 2 of the template is based on a format of 8 broad multi-dimensional questions requiring descriptive responses. The author can determine the level of detail for inclusion.

Download Word (.doc) version

Download Rich Text Format (.rtf) version

Data Management Checklist

The Data Management Checklist is based on the above Data Management Plans. The checklist provides an alternative method to using the formal templates and allows the author to develop their own data management plan by identifying the issues that need decisions and relevant information to be captured and documented.

Download Data Management Checklist - PDF format

Guides to Assist with Data Management and Planning

UK Data Archive. Managing and Sharing Data, 3rd edition, 2011

Australian National Data Service. Data Management Planning, 2011

ICPSR. Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Guide to Social Science Data Preservation and Archiving. Best Practice Throughout the Data Life Cycle, 2009

UK Data Archive. Data Management for Qualitative Data Using NVIVO9, 2011

File Formats

File formats are an important consideration in managing research data.

To ensure usability of and access to your data over the course of time you need to determine that durable file formats are utilised. This encompasses the life cycle of a research project as well as for long term access that may be required, to meet a data retention period, after completion of a research project.

Not all file formats are durable over time or compatible with the need to share data with others. There is also a distinction between the types of file formats that are optimal for presentation versus those optimal for preservation and longer term access.

Considerations include:

  • Use of open formats versus use of proprietary formats
  • Availability of the file format specifications
  • The software required to support the format, now and into the future
  • The capabilities of different formats
  • Short term access versus long term access and digital preservation
  • How you plan to analyse, manipulate, distribute and store the data
  • Current and future use of the data


The National Library of the Netherlands suggests the following criteria when evaluating file formats for long term preservation:

  • Openness
  • Adoption
  • Complexity
  • Technical protection Mechanism (DRM)
  • Self-documentation
  • Robustness
  • Dependencies


Source : Selecting file formats for long term preservation. The National Archives. 2008.

Determining an Appropriate File Format

Long Term Preservation

There are a number of resources available to assist you in determining an appropriate file format for your data. The following table, prepared by the UK Data Archive contains data formats identified by the Archive as optimal for long term preservation of data to the Archive. These can serve as a guide.

Type of data Acceptable formats for sharing, reuse and preservation Other acceptable formats for data preservation

Quantitative tabular data with extensive metadata

a dataset with variable labels, code labels, and defined missing values, in addition to the matrix of data

SPSS portable format (.por)

delimited text and command ('setup') file (SPSS, Stata, SAS, etc.) containing metadata information

some structured text or mark-up file containing metadata information, e.g. DDI XML file
proprietary formats of statistical packages e.g. SPSS (.sav), Stata (.dta)
MS Access (.mdb/.accdb)

Quantitative tabular data with minimal metadata

a matrix of data with or without column headings or variable names, but no other metadata or labelling

comma-separated values (CSV) file (.csv)

tab-delimited file (.tab)

including delimited text of given character set with SQL data definition statements where appropriate

delimited text of given character set - only characters not present in the data should be used as delimiters (.txt)

widely-used formats, e.g. MS Excel (.xls/.xlsx), MS Access (.mdb/.accdb), dBase (.dbf) and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods)

Geospatial data

vector and raster data

ESRI Shapefile (essential - .shp, .shx, .dbf, optional - .prj, .sbx, .sbn)

geo-referenced TIFF (.tif, .tfw)

CAD data (.dwg)

tabular GIS attribute data

ESRI Geodatabase format (.mdb)

MapInfo Interchange Format (.mif) for vector data

Keyhole Mark-up Language (KML) (.kml)

Adobe Illustrator (.ai), CAD data (.dxf or .svg)

binary formats of GIS and CAD packages

Qualitative data

textual

eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) text according to an appropriate Document Type Definition (DTD) or schema (.xml)

Rich Text Format (.rtf)

plain text data, ASCII (.txt)

Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) (.html)

widely-used proprietary formats, e.g. MS Word (.doc/.docx)

some proprietary/software-specific formats, e.g. NUD*IST, NVivo and ATLAS.ti

Digital image data TIFF version 6 uncompressed (.tif)

JPEG (.jpeg, .jpg) but only if created in this format

TIFF (other versions) (.tif, .tiff)

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF/A, PDF) (.pdf)

standard applicable RAW image format (.raw)

Photoshop files (.psd)
Digital audio data Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) (.flac)

MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (.mp3) but only if created in this format

Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) (.aif)

Waveform Audio Format (WAV) (.wav)
Digital video data

MPEG-4 (.mp4)

motion JPEG 2000 (.mj2)
Documentation and scripts Rich Text Format (.rtf)
PDF/A or PDF (.pdf)
HTML (.htm)
OpenDocument Text (.odt)

plain text (.txt)

some widely-used proprietary formats, e.g. MS Word (.doc/.docx) or MS Excel (.xls/.xlsx)

XML marked-up text (.xml) according to an appropriate DTD or schema, e.g. XHMTL 1.0

Source : UK Data Archive : http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/create-manage/format/formats-table

Useful Software, Systems and Sites

Zena. Software for Digital Preservation.

National Archives of Australia.

Xena software aids digital preservation by performing two important tasks:

  • Detecting the file formats of digital objects
  • Converting digital objects into open formats for preservation.

PRONOM - The Technical Registry

Developed by the Digital Preservation Department of the UK National Archives, PRONOM provides authoritative information about data file formats and supporting software products including technical requirements and support lifecycles. Users can search by file format extension, name of software, vendor or keyword.

Library of Congress. Sustainability of File formats

This website provides a browsable alphabetical list of desciptions of file formats, file format classes, bitstream structures and encodings along with inforamtion on compression of files or bitstreams.

Global Digital Format Registry. Available in January 2012

A collaborative project between Harvard University Library, National Archives and Record Administration and Online Library Computer Centre (OCLC).

Recommendations for File and Directory Names - Digital Presentation Program, Harvard University Library (pdf)

Developed as part of a broader program providing guidance on the creation of digital content and preservation for future generations.

Digital Curation and Preservation Bibliography

From the Digital Scholarship website covering digital copyright, digital curation, digital repositories, open access, scholarly communication, and other digital information issues.

Additional Resources

Additional Resource Guides for File formats

UK Data Archive. Managing and sharing Data (file formats p. 11.)
http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/media/2894/managingsharing.pdf

DDC. Digital Curation Manual. File Formats.
http://www.dcc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/resource/curation-manual/chapters/file-formats/file-formats.pdf

Selecting file formats for long term preservation. The National Archives. 2008
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/selecting-file-formats.pdf

Library of Congress. Sustainability of File formats
http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/fdd/browse_list.shtml

National Library of Australia. Preserving Access to Digital Information
http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/fdd/browse_list.shtml

Cambridge University. (2011).Common Image Formats: what to use when.
http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/dataman/resources/common_image_formats_table.pdf

JISC Digital Media (2011).Still images, moving images and sound advice.
http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/

File Formats – Working Level. ANDS Guide
http://ands.org.au/guides/file-formats-working.html

PDF Files for long term preservation
http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/digpres/docs/OIS_recs_for_pdf.pdf

A format for digital preservation of images. A study on JPEG2000 File robustness.
DLib Magazine. July/August 2008. Vol. 14, number 7/8.
http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july08/buonora/07buonora.html

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