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Document your data organization strategy

Best Practice: 

The following are strategies for effective data organization:

  • Sparse matrix: Optimal data models for storing data avoid sparse matrices, i.e. if many data points within a matrix are empty a data table with a column for parameters and a column for values may be more appropriate.
  • Repetitive information in a wide matrix: repeated categorical information is best handled in separate tables to reduce redundancy in the data table. In database design this is called normalization of data.
  • Column name is a value or repeating group: If the column name contains variable information, e.g. date or species name, the parameter/value organization of data is recommended as well for storage. Although the wide matrix is needed for statistical analysis and graphing it cannot be queried or subset in that format.
Description Rationale: 

Data management requires an effective strategy for data organization.

Additional Information: 

Borer, E. T., E. W. Seabloom, M. B. Jones, and M. Schildhauer. 2009. Some simple guidelines for effective data management. ESA Bulletin 90:205-214. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/0012-9623-90.2.205.