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All Best Practices

All research requires the sharing of information and data. The general philosophy is that data are freely and openly shared. However, funding organizations and institutions may require that their investigators cite the impact of their work, including shared data. By creating a usage rights statement and including it in data documentation, users of your data will be clear what the conditions of use are, and how to acknowledge the data source.

Include a statement describing the "usage...

Data should not be entered with higher precision than they were collected in (e.g if a device collects data to 2dp, an Excel file should not present it to 5 dp). If the system stores data in higher precision, care needs to be taken when exporting to ASCII. E.g. calculation in excel will be done to the highest possible precision of the system, which is not related to the precision of the original data.

Understand the input geospatial data parameters, including scale, map projection, geographic datum, and resolution, when integrating data from multiple sources. Care should be taken to ensure that the geospatial parameters of the source datasets can be legitimately combined. If working with raster data, consider the data type of the raster cell values as well as if the raster data represent discrete or continuous values. If working with vector data, consider feature representation (e.g.,...

Delimit the columns within a data table using commas or tabs; these are listed in order of preference. Semicolons are used in many systems as line end delimiters and may cause problems if data are imported into those systems (e.g. SAS, PHP scripts). Avoid delimiters that also occur in the data fields. If this cannot be avoided, enclose data fields that also contain a delimiter in single or double quotes.

An example of a consistently delimited data file with a header row:


Be consistent in the use of codes to indicate categorical variables, for example species names, sites, or land cover types. Codes should always be the same within one data set Pay particular attention to spelling and case; most frequent problems are with abbreviations for species names and sites.

Consistent codes can be achieved most easily by defining standard categorical variables (codes) and using drop down lists (excel, database). Frequently a code is needed for ‘none of the...


Best Practices