Creating and organising data
The data that you collect in the course of your research are valuable assets; therefore, you need to ensure that you proactively minimise the risks of data loss and/ or data breaches. You will also need to be mindful of the legal and ethical issues surrounding research data. This section offers guidance on the organisation, storage and security of research data. All of these considerations should be clearly articulated in your Data Management Plan.
Legal and ethical guidelines
NTU works continuously to embed research integrity within its institutional research culture. It is essential that you maintain the standards for research data set out in our Code of Practice for Research.
Personal, sensitive or confidential data warrant additional safeguards. Any research involving human participants requires the correct handling of all associated data in line with NTU’s Research Ethics Policy and procedures, as well as any ethical guidelines issued by funders. In addition, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), that comes into effect 25 May 2018, govern the processing of personal data and the circumstances under which that data can be shared. The ICO offers exhaustive and up to date guidance on GDPR.
The UK Data Service provides clear strategies for the gathering and processing of research data, including:
Adopting these will help you to maintain the integrity of your data, within the legal and ethical frameworks, without precluding opportunities for data sharing.
Active research data storage
You need to identify the most appropriate and robust storage solutions for your research data during your project. Use NTU Research Data Storage: a guide to help inform your decisions about the storage that is most suitable for the type of data your research is generating. You should back up your data on at least two forms of storage. You may also find the MANTRA Data Storage and Security Tutorial a useful tool.
NTU OneDrive is available for data storage during the active phase of your research. This offers:
- 5TB of data storage
- Access to your data anytime, anywhere using multiple devices
- Automatic file syncing across all of your devices
- Sharing and collaborative functionality, so you can share files and set permissions for multiple people to edit documents
- GDPR compliant data privacy and security measures
- Version history and file recovery up to 90 days, so you can restore previous versions of documents or retrieve deleted files
However, this cloud-based service is not appropriate if your research involves sensitive or confidential data. In this instance, you should apply for access to NTU network data storage. You may also require alternative data storage arrangements if:
- You are involved in a collaborative research project
- The amount of data generated is expected to exceed 5TB.
When your research meets one, or more, of these criteria, please complete the Active Research Data Storage Request Form and email it to the Research Data Management Officer at LIBResearchTeam@ntu.ac.uk.
Organising and securing your data
You can take several practical steps to not only mitigate the risks of data loss and corruption, but also maximise research efficiency. You should implement:
- Agreed file structures
- Consistent file naming conventions
- Version control
- Data encryption for sensitive or confidential data.
Additionally, your data should be accompanied by documentation that details things such as the filing and naming protocols you have employed. This is particularly important if you are working as part of a collaborative research project. It will also help other researchers understand your data more fully if you plan to make data available for future reuse. For further advice about these techniques go to the ‘Format your data’ and ‘Document your data’ sections of the UK Data Service website.