Researchers' data needs are varied and complex, which is why we've put together some hints and tools to help you manage your data effectively.

Research data are core assets

Good research data management will keep your data safe as well as:

  • accurate, complete, authentic and reliable
  • identifiable, retrievable and available when needed
  • secure
  • compliant with legal and ethical requirements
  • ready to  share with the broader research community
  • increasing potential exposure and citations

Data Management Planning Checklist

The Research Data Management Checklist helps you document information about research data and records from your research project/activity.

The best time to start planning is when you first start thinking about what data your project will generate/use. But you can also collect it at a later stage of the project or at its conclusion.

Work through the checklist with your research collaborators (including your supervisor where appropriate). This builds a shared knowledge base of the data management processes throughout your project.

The pointers below are trigger points for documentation you might need to collect. Use those relevant to your data.

  • Describe the type of research data and records from your project
    • What is the ‘data’ for this research project?
    • What data types will you be generating or collecting (eg surveys, images, computer code)?
    • How will the research data be generated and what procedures will be used to collect, check and verify data?
    • Will you re-using existing research data?
    • What file formats will be used for this research data? Why have these formats been selected – are there alternatives?

  • What legal issues will/might impact the Research Data and Records for this Project?
    • What ethical and privacy issues impact on the management of your research data?
    • Are there any contractual agreements about the use of the research data you will be collecting and/or generating?
    • What systems and processes are in place to manage these issues?
    • Does any of your research data contain confidential information? Are there any safeguards put in place to prevent unauthorized disclosure of your data?
    • Does your research project use data from human participants? Does the consent obtained allow for re-use of this data for future research?
    • Does your research data contain other information that requires special treatment or contain culturally sensitive information?
    • What is the IP status of the research data?
    • If pre-existing data is used, are there any copyright or licensing issues associated with the storage and re-use of the data?
  • Describe the Documentation and Metadata Standard(s) you will use

    Meta data is structured standards based information linked to a data object which describes, manages and makes that object discoverable.

    • How will you structure and organise your research data and records – what classification or filing system will you use?
    • What metadata standard(s) will be used for describing and managing the different types of research data?
    • Why have these standard(s) been selected? What other communities use this standard?
    • How will metadata be created and managed?
    • Are you using a protocol for research data and record filing (digital folder, directory structures, and physical filing systems)? What filing name conventions, codes, labelling, and/or identifiers practice will you be using?
    • How will you manage versions of your research data?
  • Describe the Resources you will use for Storage of Digital Research Data and Records during your project
    • How much digital data do you anticipate this project will generate/use?
    • What short term storage will you use? Describe type of storage and where is it located? Whose responsibility is it to manage this storage?
    • What back up processes are in place for your research data? How will it be done? How often will the data be backed up and whose responsibility is it to manage this process?
    • What security is in place to manage the security of this data and the storage?
  • What are the storage requirements for non-digital master originals of your Research Data and Records?

    At times the original master of your data or records is non-digital. Good examples of this include a laboratory notebook, a signed consent form, and a biological specimen. Thinking about physical storage requirements for these materials early in a project can be very helpful to avoid data loss as well as unnecessary duplication and storage.

    • Describe the Non-Digital research records and data (e.g. laboratory notebooks, specimens, consent forms) generated and/or collected during this project. During the active stage of the research project, this non-digital data will be stored in various receptacles and/or physical locations
    • Describe the storage receptacle(s) and physical location(s) for storing this research data
    • Specify any security safeguards any environmental requirements for the storage of this data
    • What storage resources are in place to manage this non-digital data at the conclusion of the project?

  • How long do you need to keep this research data?

    The retention of Research data and Records requires some thought. Often, it may be difficult to predict the value of data at the beginning of a project. For this reason it is worth treating research data as though it will be kept for a long time.

    After the completion of the project the research data and records should be retained for:

    • 5 years post publication (minimum retention period) - Insert date of disposal & Officer responsible for disposal
    • 7 years (data relates to psychological testing/interventions with adults – calculated from the conclusion of the intervention - Insert date of disposal & Officer responsible for disposal
    • 15 years (data relates to clinical trials involving adults – calculated from the conclusion of the clinical trial) - Insert date of disposal & Officer responsible for disposal
    • 25 years (data relates to clinical trials involving children – calculated as 7 years after the patient’s 18th birthday) - Insert date of disposal & Officer responsible for disposal

    Research Data that is held for an indefinite period of time is preserved because it is:

    • controversial or of high public interest
    • would be costly or impossible to reproduce
    • relates to the use of an innovative technique
    • supports a patent application
    • is a significant value to other researchers

  • Post-project Storage, Access and Re-use of Digital and Non-Digital Research Data

    Clear planning for the ongoing stewardship of research data and records is very important, particularly when these need to be retained by the University for more than 7 years. It is important that an enduring organisational unit plus the Principal Investigator or their delegate is identified for ongoing decisions relating to retention and disposal of the data.

    • What is the long-term strategy for maintaining, and archiving the research data and records from this project?
    • Identify the name of department/school/faculty/research institute that has responsibility for ongoing storage
    • What appraisal and retention frameworks are in place? How will research data be selected for preservation? How long will the data be kept?
    • Which archive, repository, central database, or data centre have you identified as a place to deposit your research data?

Research Data Management Planning Templates

While every research project data plan will be different, the thought process is the same across all disciplines. To make life easier use the checklist and template to help you get started. All you need to do is download the files and start creating your plan.

If you have any questions, or need help please contact us via email at

Managing Data @Melbourne

Managing Data @Melbourne is the University's research data management training program. It consists of six short modules, which outline the fundamental practices of good data management. Develop the skills you need to draft your research data management plan.