For various reasons, digital research data needs to remain accessible for longer periods of time:
- Research data has to be stored in accordance with Guidelines for Research Integrity of ETH Zurich (pdf, 1.25 MB) (external link) in order to guarantee the scientific verifiability of research results
- Ideally, research data created with public funding should be freely available for new research.
- Funding organizations like the Swiss National Science Foundation (external link) or the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation are providing guidelines regarding the accessibility of data.
- Editorial boards of academic journals increasingly ask for publication of the original data underlying your study.
- Research data from environmental observations or surveys, for instance, needs to be preserved because it cannot be reproduced later on.
The reuse of research data is challenging and only possible if the data and its context are fully documented. This can lead to problems including the following:
- Context information is missing or difficult to find. It may be available in unexpected places, such as lab journals on paper or readme files in file systems.
- The documentation may either be incomplete or may hamper reuse of the data.
In addition, research data is subject to technical and organisational risks:
- Older data is transferred to offline data storage devices such as DVDs or CD ROMs, which deteriorate rapidly.
- Storage structures often go undocumented because they appear to be obvious to the person responsible.
- Contact persons are mobile and might well leave the university within a few years.
- Storage locations are moved and links break.
- Incomplete documentation can make the scientifically sound reuse of data difficult or even impossible.
- The variety of specialist file and meta-data formats impedes long-term technical usability.
The services of ETH Library and its Research Data Management and Digital Curation Office can help you to overcome these challenges.