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Research Data Management Toolkit: Research Data Preservation Formats

Best practices in Research Data Management promote research integrity and collaborative opportunities. A Data Management Plan ensures data security, accessibility and validation of results.

Research Data Preservation Formats

Researchers need to ensure that their research data is secure and retrievable for long term use. The longevity of research data formats and software versions must be accounted for at the data storage stage.

When selecting file formats consideration must be given to:

  • data analysis methods;
  • discipline-related standards;
  • software and hardware compatibility and longevity during the data retention period; and
  • preference of proprietary software as opposed to open source software.

During data collection and analyses, researchers may select specific data formats. Conversion of data into standard interchangeable formats may be necessary for preservation purposes. As future access and reuse of data may be affected by proprietary formats, it is advisable to use open formats such as Rich Text Format (RTF) or Open Document Format (ODF) for preservation purposes.

Researchers should document all data capture and storage formats as well as any analysis software used. In the event of future software changes it is advisable to also store a copy of the software along with the data.

The above table represents file formats currently recommended by the UK Data Archive for long term preservation of research data (Managing and Sharing Data: Best Practice for Researchers, May 2011).

Digital Preservation Guidance

Additional resources for file formats


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