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Data Management Plan (DMP) Guide

Learn how to write a data management plan!

Step 5. Data Preservation

Preserving research data is more complex than just saving it on a hard drive or server. In fact, preserving digital data is more complex than storing paper as digital data degrades faster and you can't pick it up and read it. In general it is better to turn your data over to a qualified custodian - such as a data repository - which will take the steps necessary to preserve your data.

Many of the steps needed to preserve data overlap with the steps needed to share data. You may be able to satisfy both data preservation and data sharing requirements at the same time with good planning.

Writing prompts

Which data should be preserved?

It is rarely feasible to preserve all data generated during a research project. Focus instead on data that is unique or difficult to replicate as data fit for preservation. If you are receiving federal funding then you also need to preserve the data which is needed to validate your research findings.

Which data have long-term value?
Data that cannot easily be recreated or produced; data that is costly to reproduce; data of one-time events; experimental data; etc.

Which data are you required to keep?
Data which are necessary to validate research findings. (Please see the Requirements by Funding Agency section for more details).

For how long will the data be preserved?

Most agencies want the DMP to articulate plans to ensure the "long-term preservation" of research data but do not define what "long-term" means. In general, it may be better to commit to a minimum amount of time that the data will be preserved than a maximum. A general rule of thumb for a minimum amount of time is to consider the amount of time it takes for a research paper to be cited and then to add 5 years.

Make sure that the time period you commit to is acceptable to your peers and follows the agency requirements.

Examples of data retention periods:
Data will be kept for at least 10 years. After this time the data may be subject to deletion it has not been reused, accessed, or cited.
Data will be available indefinitely as it will be deposited to Dryad which is part of the DataOne network (which is committed to long-term data preservation and access).
Data will be preserved and available for at least 7 years.

Who is responsible for preserving the data?

The most responsible way to preserve your data is to turn it over to a responsible custodian such as a data repository. When possible, try to preserve research data in a repository which provides data curation services, not just preservation services. Curated data is more valuable, easier to reuse, easier to locate, and more highly cited.
Many data repositories have requirements for deposit - they may only accept certain types of data, have file size limits, or require a CC0 zero license. Make sure you are familiar with the requirements of the data repository you intend to deposit with.

Example Data Repository (with data curation):
ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) - Provides robust data review, curation, and preservation services. As ISU is a member of ICPSR researchers can deposit data at no cost though they must pay a fee to make the data open to the public. A DOI and data citation are provided for all datasets.

Example "Basic" Data Repository (no data curation):
Open ICPSR - Allows for self-publishing of research data. No curation services. Limited preservation services.


  • Data preservation involves data curation activities such data integrity checks, format migrations, and the creation of descriptive records.
  • To reiterate, saving data on hard drives/servers/etc. is not data preservation - it's data storage.

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