Defining research data

Research Data Management

Best Practices

Defining Research Data

Research data can be defined as: "the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings." (OMB Circular 110). Research data covers a broad range of types of information (examples below), and digital data can be structured and stored a variety of file formats. Note that properly managing data (and records) does not necessarily equate to sharing or publishing that data.

Examples of research data

Some examples of research data:

  • Documents (text, Word), spreadsheets
  • Laboratory notebooks, field notebooks, diaries
  • Questionnaires, transcripts, codebooks
  • Audiotapes, videotapes
  • Photographs, films
  • Protein or genetic sequences
  • Spectra
  • Test responses
  • Slides, artifacts, specimens, samples
  • Collection of digital objects acquired and generated during the process of research
  • Database contents (video, audio, text, images)
  • Models, algorithms, scripts
  • Contents of an application (input, output, logfiles for analysis software, simulation software, schemas)
  • Methodologies and workflows
  • Standard operating procedures and protocols

Exclusions from sharing

Some kinds of data might not be sharable due to the nature of the records themselves, or to ethical and privacy concerns. As defined by the OMB, this refers to:

  • preliminary analyses,
  • drafts of scientific papers,
  • plans for future research,
  • peer reviews, or
  • communications with colleagues

Research data also do not include:

(A) Trade secrets, commercial information, materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, or similar information which is protected under law; and

(B) Personnel and medical information and similar information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study.

Records management

Records management should not be confused with research data management. Although they might not be addressed in a data management plan, non-research records should also be managed. See University Libraries Records Management for more details about how to manage these kinds of records:

  • Correspondence (electronic mail and paper-based correspondence)
  • Project files
  • Grant applications
  • Ethics applications
  • Technical reports
  • Research reports
  • Signed consent forms
Maintained by: Brian Westra, bwestra@uoregon.edu
Created by bwestra on Jul 24, 2012 Last updated Oct 30, 2013