University of Oregon

Research Data Management

Best Practices

Archiving & Preservation

Preservation planning

Before deciding on a local solution for archiving and preservation, we recommend investigating subject- or discipline-based repositories for archiving your data. We have compiled a list of subject repositories and data centers. Please contact Brian Westra if you are unsure whether there is a repository for your discipline.

The UO Libraries supports an institutional repository, Scholars' Bank, which can also be used for data preservation. In using this repository, your data will be preserved according to the digital preservation standards enacted by the Libraries for all digital collections. Scholars' Bank will allow multiple types of files to be uploaded, but they will have to be downloaded for re-use. If you plan on preserving multiple versions of your data, please make sure to coordinate with the Scholars' Bank administrators prior to deposit. Scholars' Bank was originally designed for research papers and PDF files. If you have a data set over 50 MB, please contact the Scholars' Bank administrators to make sure the files can be downloaded efficiently and there is room on the servers. The Scholars' Bank adminsitrators can also help with wording to put in your data mangement plan specifying software versions and back-up procedures.

Preservation Best Practices and Things to Mention in your Plan

  • Back-up intervals
  • Data loss strategies
  • File format migration plans and schedules (including software required to view files)
  • Bit-integrity checks / check-sums
  • Multiple copies
  • Multiple storage locations
  • Storage media (e.g. tape, online/local, and online/cloud)
  • Data security and access issues
  • Version control

Fragility of data

Digital data - made up of bits and bytes - are in many ways more fragile than paper records for a number of reasons. Depending on the type of media on which the data are stored (magnetic, optical, and so forth), over time they are subject to different forms of 'bit rot' or decay, in which the electrical charge representing a bit disperses.

This gradually introduces either minor or major errors in the data, and their ability to be read by computer software.

Strategies

  • Refreshment - move data files onto new storage media well within the projected lifespan of the media.
  • Replication - by keeping more than one copy of a data file, the risk of losing a readable copy over time is reduced.

These strategies apply to both online and offline storage media. Where data are kept on a server, backup procedures and disaster recovery planning may take into account the necessary procedures. Ask your system administrator about their procedures and tests.

Offline storage media include optical discs such as compact discs (CDs) and digital video discs (DVDs). Depending on the quality, these may need to be refreshed every ten years or less. Portable flash drives can be useful for short-term backup and portability but are not reliable for preservation purposes.

Software obsolescence

Another threat to long-term accessibility of datasets is software obsolescence. When a new version of a software product is unable to render a file created in an older version, or when a software company retires a product, goes bankrupt, etc, there may be no available version of the software to be used on newer operating system platforms.

Strategies

  • Migration - when a new software version has become established, the data file is converted or 'migrated' to the new software version or package.
  • Emulation - a specialised strategy to recreate the functionality of the obsolete software package on a new operating system, or, for example, on a Java Virtual Machine system.
  • Format conversion - the most pro-active method is to select a format that is most easily imported into a number of suitable software programs, or that is based on a universal standard.

Data archives and repositories

Services may exist that could relieve you as a researcher of taking on long-term preservation of data yourself.

Digital preservation and data curation are represented by emerging professional fields that are increasingly specialised. Specialists are knowledgeable about preservation planning and procedures, as well as standards, informatics, and discipline-specific knowledge and norms.

A big advantage of depositing your data in an archive or repository is that it will be preserved - even for your own future use!

Source: University of Edinburgh

Maintained by: Brian Westra, bwestra@uoregon.edu
Created by bwestra on Jul 24, 2012 Last updated Oct 30, 2013
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