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Data Management for the Sciences

A guide to best practices for management of research data, including links to data services from the University of California.

General Rules

Creating a back-up copy of your data is not enough to ensure against the loss of your most important research data. Minimize your chances of losing your data by following these guidelines.

Imagine a disaster. What if your office computer—which held the only copy of your data—was lost due to flood, fire or theft? What data would you need to ensure your research could continue with minimal interruption? This will help you identify what data sets you should back up.

Create your backup plan. You should be saving 3 copies of your data in geographically dispersed areas. The primary copy of your data will most likely reside on your computer. You should ensure that a second copy is locally available (like on an external harddrive) and the third copy is backed up in an external location such as an online storage service.

Select the storage mediums. Optical media, like CDs and DVDs, are not a wise back-up option since they have been shown to degrade over time, rendering the data on the disks unreadable. Consider local storage, campus storage, and online storage options. (See below for more information)

Be consistent. Sporadic backups may result in inadvertent data loss if a disaster were to occur. Be sure your files are backed up regularly to avoid major data loss.

To learn more, see NDSA Levels of Preservation.

Source: from Claremont Colleges

Data Storage Options

Local Storage has the convenience of everyday access and personalized control, however many local systems are not backed-up regularly and require management.

  • Computer hard drive
  • External media (hardrive, CD/DVD, flash drive)
  • Departmental server, local access

Campus-based Storage options are managed (ie. regularly backed-up) and can make collaboration easy, however, control is limited as is capacity.

  • Cloud Services at UCLA (including Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Box, IDRE Cloud Archival Storage Service)

Cloud-based storage stores data on remote servers which can take away the burden of access and management issues. This is an ideal place for a secondary or tertiary storage location for your files. Some are free services while others are fee-based that offer a test drive before purchasing an account.

Privacy and Confidentiality

It is vital to maintain the confidentiality of research subjects for ethical reasons and to ensure their continuing participation.

  • Comply with UC regulations: Consult the appropriate UC Requirements and Guidance for Conducting Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects.
  • Comply with all health research regulations: Federal legislation contains very strict guidelines; consult HIPAA Privacy Rule Information for Researchers.
  • Evaluate the data’s sensitivity: Consider whether the data contains direct or indirect identifiers that could be utilized with other public information to identify research participants.
  • Obtain informed consent: Several sample agreements are available.
  • Restrict use of the data: Control access through embargoes or access/licensing terms and conditions.
  • Learn about professional guidelines: The National Academy of Engineering offers an online ethics center that includes a discussion of ethical issues in data management.

Data Security

Secure Your Data

Some data are sensitive or confidential and extra precautions should be taken to ensure that they are appropriately protected. Data security includes network security, physical security, and computer files and systems security.

Physical Security

  • Restrict access to buildings and rooms where sensitive data or research specimen are stored.
  • Only allow trusted individuals to troubleshoot computer problems.
  • Keep physical paper files in locked file cabinets.

Computer Systems and Files

  • Ensure that the computers used in research and/or data storage have up-to-date virus protection.
  • Use passwords to secure files and computers.
  • Although unencrypted data is ideal for storing your data because it will make it most easily read by you and others in the future, encryption may be necessary for some sensitve data, especially if the data are being transferred over emai or FTP.

Source: from Georgia Tech

Laptop Theft Prevention

The UCLA Insurance and Risk Management office provides laptop theft prevention software available to anyone with a email address. Users will be provided with four-years of software tracking services to help the user and UCPD or local law enforcement recover the laptop.