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Research data management: Version control

Research data management covers the planning, collecting, organising, managing, storage, security, backing up, preserving, and sharing your data.

Version control

Because digital research data can so easily be copied, over-written or changed, researchers need to take steps to protect its authenticity. Research time is wasted and valuable data put at risk if researchers work with outdated versions of files.

Version control can prevent this. Control is particularly important if data is being used by multiple members of a research team, or if research files are shared across different locations.

A regime to synchronise different copies or versions of files will improve research efficiency and help guarantee the authenticity of the data. Good practice generally involves the keeping of a single master file, to which all changes are recorded. Version control mechanisms should be established and documented before any data is collected or generated.

File naming conventions

Another way to ensure adequate version control is to adopt file naming conventions.  For example:

  • Using dates
    • RDM Survey_10-11-2011
  • Using file version numbering
    • RDM Survey_1-01
  • Using file version descriptions
    • - RDM Survey _draft_1
      - RDM Survey _final_1

You should also consider strictly controlling who has access and rights to add or edit data, particularly for master copies of your research data.  Merging data edits manually by a single designated and authorised person.  For more information click here for The Rules

More resources

Software and file sharing

There are a number of other tools that can assist with version control.