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Manage your research data

As a researcher you gather a lot of material during the research process, which needs to be handled during the project, as well as be stored afterwards. Research data has become more important lately, and funding organisations have issued stricter requirements on managing research data in projects. These demands can vary from requirements on writing a data management plan, to making research data openly available after the project.

What is research data?

Research data is material which is collected and used in the research process to get results. Depending on research area it can be different, and everything from interviews, pictures, literature to biological tests, geo location data and code from computer applications can be data. It can be difficult to define what data is, as it depends on the research area. Different types of data can also be valued differently within one discipline. The common denominator for research data is that you use it and build your research upon it.

Research data should be stored and preserved according to laws and regulations. A lot of disciplines have their own traditions for how to handle data. How you manage and treat your data depends of course on what project and which types of data you work with.

During the last few years there has been an increasing focus on Open Science. One aspect of this is Open Data, which means that the data upon which research is conducted should be made as openly available as possible. Investments on research data were also mentioned in the latest Government Budget Bill for education and research.

The Swedish National Data Service (Svensk nationell datatjänst, SND) is a Swedish network that collaborates with international networks, and which Södertörn University is a member of, and they offer possibilities for researchers who want to make their data available. They support universities as well as authorities working with research data and offer training and courses to those who work with data at universities and organisations. SND has a lot of advice you can consider on how to for example name files and store them in a secure way External link, opens in new window..

A short explanation is that metadata means data about data. Metadata is a description of something, so in this case it is a description of what your data consists of. Is your data tabular? What do the columns represent, and how has data been processed? Is it transcribed interviews? How have they been recorded, and what has the transcription process looked like?

Data is difficult to understand without metadata, and for making data reusable it needs to be described. It is not only for others but also for your own sake you should describe your data, so that you remember what it consists of and how it has been processed.

Data management plans

A data management plan (DMP) is a living documentation that describes how data is treated within a research project. It is always a good idea to start writing a data management plan in the beginning of a project to get a picture of how you are going to handle your data, and it can be updated during the project if needed. It is also good if everyone involved in the project has taken part of the plan. Information that can be included in a data management plan is policies on naming files, how files should be stored or who the person responsible for personal data is.

Södertörn has its own data management plan External link, opens in new window. that you can find on Medarbetarwebben.

Writing a data management plan can be challenging, but there are several resources that give advice and guidance on how you do it:

Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet, VR) External link, opens in new window.

The Swedish Research Council demand since 2019 that everyone that is awarded grants must have written a data management plan, in accordance to the mission from the Government to make research data open. The plan should among other things describe how data will be documented, stored and preserved in a secure way. You don’t usually need to submit your plan to VR, but you need to be able to show it upon request.

The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies (Östersjöstiftelsen, ÖSS) External link, opens in new window.

Starting from 2021 all projects funded by ÖSS need to include a data management plan that describes how data will be handled during and after the project. You don't have to send your DMP with your application, but will have to show it upon request.

Riksbankens jubileumsfond (RJ) External link, opens in new window.

Projects that are awarded grants starting from 2020 within “Infrastructure for research” require a data management plan, while it is recommended that you do it for other funding forms as well. RJ also encourages you to make any research data used in the project which results in publications openly available.

The Research Council for Sustainable Development (Formas) External link, opens in new window.

Every project funded by Formas needs to include a data management plan which can be shown upon request. They recommend using Science Europe "Core Requirements for Data Management Plans” External link, opens in new window..

The Knowledge Foundation (KK-stiftelsen) External link, opens in new window.

There are currently no demands for a data management plan, but there might be regulations on how data should be handled in the general grant terms and conditions.

EU projects External link, opens in new window.

For EU-financed projects there should be a Data Management Plan. Each EU-financed project has their own guideslines for how their Data Management Plan should look, so make sure you are following your projects plan.

Vinnova External link, opens in new window.

There are currently no demands for a data management plan, but there might be regulations on how data should be handled in the general grant terms and conditions.

Publish and archive your research data

Once you are finished with your project you will need to take care of your data. You can choose to only archive data or to also make them available by publishing them in an open repository.

If you choose to publish your data, you must first think about which types of data you have. Where is it suitable to publish it? Is there a fitting data repository where you can make your data available? You also need to consider if there is sensitive data in your dataset. Is there data that shouldn’t be made publicly available, only archived? It is perhaps better to only publish parts of your dataset or only the metadata (the description of your data) if the dataset contains sensitive data.

Do you want to publish your dataset? Here are some data repositories you might use:

The Swedish National Data Service (SND) External link, opens in new window.

A Swedish repository that accepts datasets or descriptions of datasets free of charge. SND is a network which Södertörn University is member of.

Zenodo External link, opens in new window.

A European Union financed repository which is operated by CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research).

re3data.org External link, opens in new window.

A service that lists several different data repositories within different subjects.

Support unit for research data questions at Södertörn University

Currently there is a project at Södertörn University to establish a DAU (Data Access Unit), a support unit for research data. This unit will provide support to researchers in questions about research data management, and it will consist of librarians, archivists, research advisors and IT-specialists. Södertörn University has in this process guidance from the Swedish National Data Service (SND), and they have domain experts that can give support to the members of the network in questions specific to their expertise. So, if you have a question on how to best publish and archive large quantities of data within for instance medical research or register-based research, there are several experts at SND that you can ask for help through the DAU.

Contact information

Do you need to contact us? Send an email to:

publications@sh.se - For general questions on research data

arkivarie@sh.se - Questions about archiving data

dataskydd@sh.se - For questions on data protection and GDPR

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