Data Management

What is Research Data?

Different sponsors have slightly different definitions for research data. Here are three examples.

For the Office of Management and Budget, โ€œ Research data is defined as the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, but not any of the following: preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer reviews, or communications with colleagues. This "recorded" material excludes physical objects (e.g., laboratory samples).โ€

The National Science Foundation says that โ€œ[w]hat constitutes such data will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management. This may include, but is not limited to: data, publications, samples, physical collections, software and models."

The National Institutes of Health answers the question in this way. "By 'final research data', we mean recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings. Final research data do not include laboratory notebooks, partial datasets, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as gels or laboratory specimens."

Research data can be observational, experimental, simulated, derived, or compiled. Data can also come in many formats including, but not limited to:

  • No data produced - and thus no data management plan required
  • Audio or video formats
  • Codebooks
  • Curriculum materials
  • Databases
  • Datasets
  • Images (slides, jpegs, tiffs)
  • Lab or field notebooks
  • Log files, simulation software, schemas
  • Models or algorithms
  • Numerical (Excel, SPSS, STATA, Access, MySQL)
  • Physical collections
  • Protocols, procedures, workflows or methodologies
  • Questionnaires or test responses
  • Software, including programming language(s), operating system(s), etc.
  • Text files, pdfs, or Word documents

In general, "raw data", i.e., data from sensors or other instruments does not require archiving because it falls under the category of "preliminary analysis." NSF guidelines, for example, require "analyzed data" as the basic level of digital data to be archived.

If you are not sure whether what you have is considered research data for your particular sponsor or not, please feel free to contact our team. We can help you decide.