Basic data management guidelines: Where do your data end up?

Understand the value of your data!

You have put in a lot of time and effort to collect your material, so why not take good care of it!

If you make the data you collect understandable, others can also use the data. This means adding metadata to your material and ensuring that the material remains usable. Your material must also be in a file format that can be read without special devices or software. 

Preservation is a choice

Data destruction must not be done by accident but always by choice. 

Likewise, data are not preserved automatically and inadvertently. Data can easily and quickly decay or become useless if attention is not paid to storage. 

  • Data can decay if carelessly stored. This goes by the term ‘data rot’.
  • Consider whether your material is of the kind that needs to be preserved or whether it can be disposed of.

As devices and software quickly become outdated, measures such as the following must be adopted in data storage:

  • Data refreshment means copying data from one storage media to another.
  • Data migration means converting data into a format suitable for another hardware or software environment.

Opening and citing data

Data can be published in open data archives, such as the following:

Take the following into account when opening or publishing data for others to use:

  • If you have assigned a licence, such as a CC licence, to your data, others know how they can use your data.
  • If your material contains sensitive data or personal data, you cannot grant open access to it. Further information available in the section “What if your material contains personal data?”.

You can search for interesting data resources in data archives.

If you use data produced by someone else, you must cite the source. An example of a data citation from FSD:

  • Nystedt, Ursula (University of Jyväskylä): Support Networks of Families with Special Needs Children 2014 [electronic data resource]. Version 1.0 (2015-12-18). Finnish Social Science Data Archive [distributor].

Destroying data

Data must not be destroyed accidentally. Both the preservation and destruction of data must be planned.

Simply deleting the data is not an adequate way to destroy sensitive data!

Examples of safe ways to destroy the data on a drive:

  • Using data destruction software that both empties and overwrites the drive
  • Physically breaking the drive

As a rule, all personal data must be destroyed, for example after the completion of your master’s thesis. If your material contains personal data, discuss their destruction or preservation with your teacher or supervisor.