Research data: To keep or not to keep?

To keep or not to keep? That is the question posed in a new report produced by Neil Beagrie, What to Keep: A Jisc research data study. With growing volumes and diversity of research data, the issue of what to keep has been growing in significance.

Who is the study for?

The research carried out in this small scale study has produced insights that will be of value across university research and research management teams, as well as for funders and publishers. The report outlines use cases for retention of data, as well as suggestions for improvement.

The conclusion is that it is essential to consider not only what and why to keep data, but also where to keep it, how to keep it and how long for.

Use cases and drivers for keeping research data

Reproducibility and research integrity and the potential for reuse of data for research are the two main use cases demonstrated in the report. Both of these rely on the availability of data, for supporting the findings of research, and for sharing with other users. However, there are distinctions between these uses for what is kept, where and how it is kept and made accessible.

More generally, good open scholarship practice requires universities to make sure their digital research outputs are managed, preserved and accessible. In response to this driver Jisc developed open research hub (ORH), a fully-managed and interoperable research data platform.

Effective practice between disciplines

The ‘What to Keep’ report shows that, although there are some broad generic principles for what to keep between disciplines, there are many differences. Different disciplines are also at different stages in their data use, reuse and compliance with funder mandates. Nevertheless, there is interest in evolving disciplinary norms, and in identifying what’s transferable between disciplines.

So what should you keep?

The study makes 10 recommendations alongside potential implementations in an attempt to move a substantial problem forward. Seven case studies have also been prepared to illustrate the approaches and rationale for what to keep in various scenarios.

As UKRI develops its roadmap for research data infrastructure, and as universities similarly plan their investments, the outcomes from this study will provide an improved understanding of the requirements that will need to be met.

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