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Data Management Guidelines

Before your research project begins

Funding Requirements

  • Research funding bodies may require that data be shared.  In Canada, the tri-council agencies currently have provisions in place for CIHR grant holders to share certain types of data as outlined in the Tri-Agency open Access Policy on Publications (2015) and encourage data stewardship and digital data management through SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving Policy (1990) and the Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management (2016).  

Data Management Plan (DMP)

  • A DMP is a short, evolving document that describes how you will organize, store, and share your data through the lifetime of the research.
  • Where required by the funding agency, research proposals should include research data management plans that explicitly address data capture, management, integrity, confidentiality, retention, sharing and publication.  As a matter of best practice, all research projects should have a data management plan in place before the project commences.  Preparing the DMP in advance of the funding application will allow appropriate costs to be built into the project budget, where allowed. 
  • DMP Assistant,, is an online tool designed to assist Canadian scholars create DMPs.
  • Other tools exist aimed at requirements for other granting agencies: DMP Builder (UK), DMP Tool (US).
  • A crucial part of a data management plan is ensuring that the elements described in these sections (Before, During, & After) are assigned to project members to ensure that are properly handled. Also, contingency plans should be accounted for to ensure custody of the data, passwords, etc. is properly maintain despite changes in personnel or other unexpected circumstances.
  • Support for creating Data Management plans is available from the Coordinator, Research Data and Visualization in Libraries and Cultural Resources.

During your research project


  • The Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2) (2014) states that researchers have a duty to treat personal information in a confidential manner and that researchers and REBs identify and minimize privacy risks.  Moreover, researchers are responsible for compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements with respect to protection of privacy and consent for the collection, use or disclosure of information about human participants (e.g. HIA, FOIP). Ethics requirements relating to data use considerations (e.g. consent, privacy, confidentiality, security, secondary use) are detailed in TCPS2 (2014), Chapter 5. 
  • The REBs recognize the University of Calgary's Information Security Classification Standard


  • The means of storage is up to the PI.  In general storage resources provided by your department are more secure than personal storage, and storage provided centrally is advisable.

File Naming

  • Pick a consistent naming convention
  • Recommended components: date, project, author, version
  • Place a readme file in the data folder that describes the naming convention
  • Avoid special characters (e.g., ?*& !@#$%^<>/\”’)

File Versions

  • Make “master” copies of your data at major milestones: raw data collection completed, end of analysis, paper submission, etc.

File Types

  • If possible, make copies of your files in non-proprietary file formats.  E.g., save a copy of your Excel file as a .csv (comma separated value).  This eases collaboration when your team may not have access to the same software and assists in preservation i.e., the company that makes the software could go out of business, stop selling that software, or to run the software with changes in operating systems and technology.
  • Recommended File Formats
    • Images: JPG, PNG, PDF, TIFF, BMP
    • Spreadsheets: CSV
    • Video: MPG, MOV, AVI
    • Databases: XML, CSV
    • Sound: MP3, FLAC
    • Text: TXT, CSV, PDF/A, ASCII, UTF-8
    • Ebooks: EPUB
  • For more information about long-term preservation format see: 


  • Use a metadata standard appropriate to your discipline and the type of data.  If you are unsure, consult with a librarian
  • Collect metadata “as you go”.  Results are less accurate and tracking down the information is more consuming to do this post-project. Create a data guide or codebook outlining the dataset, how it was collected, the meaning of the variables, etc.
  • Metadata should be stored and preserved with your data.
  • Support to define an appropriate metadata scheme is available from  Metadata Services in Libraries and Cultural Resources. 


  • 3-2-1 Rule: 3 copies on 2 different media, and 1 offsite.
  • Also be sure that at least one copy is not on a personal computer (i.e., preferably on a machine that is not in constant use).  
  • Ensure antivirus software and secure passwords are utilized to keep backup data secure. 

After your research project is finished

Data Sharing / Publishing

  • It is recommended that you publish your data in a freely accessible venue if cost effective & possible given any pertinent legal, ethical, or commercial obligations.  
  • Scholars should aim for the most public access possible and consistent with privacy.  Consider whether stored information would be useful for secondary analysis,replication, verification, or other purposes.  Some publishers will require data sharing as a condition of publication and may specify where or how data is to be shared.  Check in the “instructions for authors” section of the journal’s website. 
  • The University of Calgary has a data repository.  This is free and provides your dataset with a DOI providing a reliable record for citation and reference.
  • A comprehensive list of other data repositories is available at
  • Data can also be presented as a data paper.  Data papers are descriptions of a particular data describing details such as the methods and context of data collection as well as highlighting reuse potential.  Data papers do not form arguments or draw conclusions and may be peer-reviewed depending on the venue.
  • If necessary, you can make use of data embargoes (e.g., only metadata available for a dataset until a specific date has passed).
  • Other possibilities included access restrictions, providing mediated access, or more formal data use agreements/licenses.

Data Licenses

  • Creative Commons Zero (CC0) is the recommended license to make data sharing possible. 
  • Facts are not subject to copyright.  However other aspects of your data may be copyrightable (images, data structure, etc).  Please consult with Libraries and Cultural Resources’ Copyright Officer for help or more information.


  • Developing a plan that aligns with National initiatives.


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