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Decide what data to preserve

Best Practice: 

The process of science generates a variety of products that are worthy of preservation. Researchers should consider all elements of the scientific process in deciding what to preserve:

  • Raw data
  • Tables and databases of raw or cleaned observation records and measurements
  • Intermediate products, such as partly summarized or coded data that are the input to the next step in an analysis
  • Documentation of the protocols used
  • Software or algorithms developed to prepare data (cleaning scripts) or perform analyses
  • Results of an analysis, which can themselves be starting points or ingredients in future analyses, e.g. distribution maps, population trends, mean measurements
  • Any data sets obtained from others that were used in data processing
  • Multimedia: documented procedures, or standalone data

When deciding on what data products to preserve, researchers should consider the costs of preserving data:

  • Raw data are usually worth preserving
  • Consider space requirements when deciding on whether to preserve data
  • If data can be easily or automatically re-created from raw data, consider not preserving. E.g. if data that have undergone quality control processes and were analyzed, consider preserving since reproduction might be costly
  • Algorithms and software source code cost very little to preserve
  • Results of analyses may be particularly valuable for future discovery and cost very little to preserve

Researchers should consider the following goals and benefits of preservation:

  • Enabling re-analysis of the same products to determine whether the same conclusions are reached
  • Enabling re-use of the products for new analysis and discovery
  • Enabling restoration of original products in the case that working datasets are lost
Description Rationale: 

To meet multiple goals for preservation, researchers should think broadly about the digital products that their project generates, preserve as many as possible, and plan the appropriate preservation methods for each.