Why your choice of data format is important
The choice of format for your data will determine how that data may be used, analysed, backed up, stored and potentially reused in the future.
Researchers should consider saving their research data using standard, interchangeable and longer-lasting formats, to avoid being unable to use the data, either during the project if it is long term or in the future. Similarly for back-ups of data, standard formats should be considered.
The best way to guarantee long term data usability and access to use standard formats that most software can easily interpret or that can be migrated to a new format easily at a later date.
While the choice of format will depend to some extent on discipline- specific standards, the software used and the method of analysis, it is generally recommened that researchers use non-proprietary software and formats based on open standards where possible. For example:
The UK Data Archive has a comprehensive list of recommended file formats. They also provide advice on the suitability of formats for file conversion.
Choosing appropriate formats will also minimise loss of data through compression or software obsolescence.
Researchers should also consider:
There are a number of things to consider when selecting a format for your data. These should be addressed in your data management plan.
Data issues to consider include:
Be sure to list in your data management plan:
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