Research that relies on large datasets (“big data”) is now common.
To support effective research, researchers must have access to high-quality data and be able to manage and preserve their own data.
Research data is: 'any information that has been collected, observed, generated or created to validate original research findings'. (Source: University of Leeds)
Research data can include:
1. Raw data: Raw data is simply unstructured, unprocessed bits of information. It can include anything captured from instruments and sensors such as telescopes, smartphones, and satellites.
2. Visualizations, models, and algorithms: Digital resources like models and algorithms help researchers visualize and present raw data in a meaningful way. Charts and graphs can also be considered research data.
3. Images, audio files, video files: Digital images are data, as are audio files or videos captured during the course of research (for example, recorded interviews).
Research data curation refers to the series of decision points and activities related to creating, managing, sharing, and preserving the digital files that comprise your research materials. The complete set of research activities is often referred to as the “research lifecycle.” At each point along the pathway, researchers make important decisions about how to manage digital components of research such as database tools and software, sharing/publication platforms, archives and repositories, and file organization. Researchers invest substantial time, effort, and funds into their work, so it is important to have a plan for managing and protecting data and other materials generated during a research project. In addition, researchers must consider how best to share their work and secure long-term digital storage for research products such as articles and datasets. Digital objects are particularly vulnerable to loss, whether through bit corruption, file format obsolescence, lack of context and documentation (metadata), or inadequate preservation. Developing a plan for digital preservation helps mitigate some of these risks and ensures that your valuable research materials will remain accessible and usable over the long term.
Note: the tools and strategies described in this guide are not meant to be exhaustive. An additional resource for discovering new digital tools is Connected Researcher, available at http://connectedresearchers.com/online-tools-for-researchers/