FAIR and formatted data
Research data can be of different types and the purpose of the storage may vary, depending on which phase of the research process you are in. But all data needs to be structured and organised in a consistent way, and data needs to be supplemented with various types of descriptions (metadata). In addition, the storage needs to meet certain requirements, such as those applying to technology, ethics and accessibility.
Storing data in a system that meets the University’s requirements and providing them with metadata makes the use and publication of data easier and is a prerequisite for being able to manage research data according to what are known as the four FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).
Selecting the format of the data
What are the different types of metadata?
- Descriptive: Information about the dataset’s content, which makes it possible to find data, how the data were produced and who conducted the study. Examples of descriptive data are subject area, keyword, method, author/person responsible and a permanent identification marking. Specifying authors is a prerequisite for the sharing of data that can lead to new collaborations and acquisition of qualifications.
- Administrative: Administrative metadata provides information about how data can be used. File formats, rights, licenses, copyrights and preservation requirements are examples of administrative data.
- Structural: Structural metadata describes how the data are organised so they can be used by others.
In short,FAIR data means that:
- Data can be searched and found. What are the data and who is responsible for them? (“Findable”)
- Opportunities and limitations regarding access to data are well defined. (“Accessible”)
- How the data are organised and what metadata are available is clearly indicated so that the data can be analysed (possibly along with other data). (“Interoperable”).
- It is clear under what conditions and type of license the data can be used (“Reuseable”).
- Swedish Research Council: Kriterier för FAIR forskningsdata
- The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Wilkinson et al. (2016), Scientific Data Vol. 3, Article nr. 160018
Selecting the format of the data
When you plan a project, you need to think through which format or formats of data you are going to use. Since research data is considered a public document, you also need to keep in mind the requirements for archiving to which the University is subject as a public authority.
When selecting a data format, consider the following:
- What format or formats have you and your colleagues used before?
- Are there any domain-specific standards?
- Is the software compatible with the systems provided by the University?
- How is the data to be analysed?
- How is the data to be archived and stored?
- Can you add metadata?
- Is the format suitable for sharing of data?
- Will the format also work with future systems? Does it work in all parts of the process with minimal need for conversion to other formats?
Data that is created in research projects is also to be saved in the University’s own archives along with other documents from the research project. The documents and type of information listed in the Swedish National Archives’ regulation are to be archived. Examples of such documents are data files, ethics permissions, research documentation and published results. You can find information about medium and format choices on the National Archives website.
Office for Information Provision, Registry and University Archives (EIRA)
In accordance with the head of department delegation, heads of departments have both administrative and archival responsibility for their departments. Archival responsibility means, among other things, ensuring that the department’s employees observe the regulations that exist for archiving public documents, such as research data. For the latter, the head of department is to appoint an archivist at the department.
The archivist can turn to EIRA for support in the department’s archive management. EIRA also has comprehensive informative material with quick reference guides and process descriptions. EIRA can also transfer local archives from departments for storage in Uppsala University’s central archives.