Preparing data for sharing

Appraisal and selection

It is not possible for all digital data to be kept forever and it is good practice to be selective in what is archived for the long-term. The following documents may help you to determine which data should be kept long-term.

Long term usability

Once you have selected which of your data is worth preserving in the long term, you need to prepare those data so that other researchers are able to understand and work with them in the future.

  • Documenting data: record information about the structure and format of your data and the process you went through to obtain it. In some cases this can be stored in the data files themselves; if not, it can be stored in a "read me" document in the same folder as the data. See our webpage on Describing Data.
  • Using standards: be aware of standard file formats and standard nomenclature (such as letters used for variables) used in your field. Consider using files in open formats so that they can be read by a variety of software. A useful guide on the best data formats for long-term preservation of data can be found on the UK Data Service website.
  • Digitising physical data: if you are planning to digitise physical data in order to make it available for use in the future, we recommend you contact the University Archivist for advice on best digitised formats.
  • Archiving physical data: physical research data should be kept for at least 10 years post-project, and made openly available wherever possible. The OU’s Guidelines for archiving physical research data (pdf) provide advice on physical data selection, cataloguing, documentation, archival and review.

Contact us

Library Research Support team