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:
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).
Additional resources for file formats