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Data Management

Types of data to manage

Data can mean many different things, but there are typically four main categories that it can be sorted into for management purposes. The category that you choose will then have an effect upon the choices that you make throughout the rest of your data management plan.


  • Captured in real-time
  • Usually irreplaceable
  • Examples: Sensor readings, telemetry, survey results, images


  • Data from lab equipment
  • Often reproducible, but can be expensive
  • Examples: gene sequences, chromatograms, magnetic field readings


  • Data generated from test models
  • Models and metadata
  • Input more important than output data
  • Examples: climate models, economic models

Derived or compiled

  • Reproducible (but very expensive)
  • Examples: text and data mining, compiled database, 3D models

Data formats

  • Text (ascii, Word, pdf)
  • Numerical (ascii, SPSS, STATA, Excel, Access, MySQL)
  • Multimedia (jpeg, tiff, dicom, mpeg, quicktime)
  • Models (3D, statistical)
  • Software (Java, C)
  • Discipline specific (FITS in astronomy, CIF in chemistry)
  • Instrument specific (Olympus Confocal Microscope Data Format)


Things to consider when deciding on where and how to store your data:

  • Use file formats that wil be useable in the long-term, not dependent on software version
  • CD & DVDs' media life are not reliable in the long-term, copy or migrate data to new media between 2 - 5 years after creation
  • Appropriate environmental conditions will increase the life-span of media
  • Consider security concerns
  • Make backups of your data


Data Security is the protection of data from unauthorized access, use, change, disclosure and destruction. Make sure your data is safe in regards to:

  • Network security
    • Keep confidential data off the Internet
    • Put sensitive materials on computers not connected to the internet
  • Physical Security
    • Restrict access to buildings and rooms where computers or media are kept
    • Only let trusted individuals troubleshoot computer problems
  • Computer Systems & Files
    • Keep virus protection up to date
    • Don't sent confidential data via e-mail or FTP (use encryption, if you must)
    • Use passwords on files and computers
  • Unencrypted is ideal for storing your data because it will make it most easily read by you and others in the future. But if you do need to encrypt your data because its sensitivity:
    • Keep passwords and keys on paper (2 copies), and in a PGP (pretty good privacy) encrypted digital file
    • Don’t rely on 3rd party encryption alone
  • Uncompressed is also ideal for storage, but if you need to do so to conserve space, limit compression to your 3rd backup copy