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Collect and describe your research data

Before you collect data, plan how to name and organise your files, how to describe your data (which metadata to collect), and which file formats to use.

Also, consider whether you need any permissions, for example from the Swedish Chemicals Agency or the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. You may also need permission if you are studying endangered species, taking samples in protected areas, using laboratory animals, or doing human studies.

If you undertake contract research or a research collaboration with industrial or academic partners, it is important that all agreements and research contracts are in place before you collect data.

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File formats

Save your files in an open or standard preservation file format rather than a proprietary file format. It can be simpler to plan to use the correct format from the start, as it can be difficult to convert to preservation file formats later when you need to share or store your data.

It is not always possible to use a file format that meets these criteria. For example, some disciplines have standards or traditions that determine the choice of format. Certain types of scientific equipment, analytical tools, or self-written software can also determine the file format. When planning to reuse or share your research data, it is useful to include information in the form of metadata about how your data can be read (for example which software to use) and to include any self-written software necessary with your data.

The Swedish National Data Service (SND) can advise on accepted and recommended file formats.

Guide to file formats on the Swedish National Data Service (SND) website

Organising data

Organise your research data using carefully considered folder and file structures. Give your files and folders names with an appropriate hierarchy. Names should provide cues to the time, place, content, and other relevant information. It is best to have a simple version control strategy in place to keep track of different versions of your files, for example by recording the date in the file name or by imposing other forms of version control.

Guide to folder structure, file names, and versioning on the Swedish National Data Service (SND) website

Metadata

Describe your data in a structured way and provide all necessary metadata (data about data). Plan to provide metadata the very beginning, as frequently it is difficult to generate it retrospectively for large quantities of data.

Metadata falls into three groups:

  • Descriptive metadata
  • Structural metadata
  • Administrative metadata

Descriptive metadata enables others to search your data, and includes the title, author, abstract or summary, geographical area, and DOI (Digital Object Identifier).

Structural metadata enables others to use your data, and includes the number of variables, number of research subjects, file structure, or internal file structure.

Administrative metadata enables others to understand and use your data, and includes regulatory requirements, any licences or embargos, technical information (the programs needed to open the files), and file formats and versions.

It is important to distinguish between metadata and documentation. Documentation in the form of articles and reports can only be read by people. Metadata must be machine-readable, which places specific demands on the structure, format, and standardised vocabulary. Study-level metadata can be stored in a README file or similar, while data-level metadata should accompany individual folders or files.

Data made available in databases should be organised and described according to current standards, which are often determined by the choice of repository or database.

Guide to data organisation on the King’s College London website

Search and find metadata standards by discipline on the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) website

Collection of personal data

When the data you collect include personal data there are special regulations to follow, in particular ethical guidelines and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Before you collect data, determine what applies in your case.

All research projects that involve personal data must be registered with Lund University, because the university is required by law to maintain a register of all processing of personal data at the university. If Lund University fails to do so it may be fined. Research projects should be registered in PULU (Personal Data Lund University).

Log into Personal Data Lund University (PULU)

In research projects where data is collected directly from research subjects or informants, informed consent should be obtained. Where data collection may affect subjects physically or if the data is personally sensitive, the research must be subject to an ethical review by an ethics committee before the research begins.

Guidelines on the registration of personal data processing for research on the Staff Pages

Ethical reviews

Will your research involve human studies, biological material taken from a human being, or the processing of personal data? If so, you may need to apply for an ethical review. As of 2004, it is forbidden to embark on certain types of research without approval from an ethical review board.

Guidelines on research ethics and animal testing ethics on the Staff Pages

Animal experiments

Will your research involve the use of laboratory animals? If so, you must obtain in advance the necessary permits and approvals to perform animal experiments.

Guidelines on research ethics and animal testing ethics on the Staff Pages

Contract research and research collaborations

If you undertake contract research or a research collaboration with industrial or academic partners there must be a research contract or agreement in place to regulate, for example, the right to results, confidentiality, and publication. The research contract will also set out the partner or organisation responsible for the long-term safekeeping of research data and other research material when the project is completed.

Each individual researcher, doctoral student, student, or other participant in the contract research or research collaboration must sign to indicate their agreement to the terms before the full research contract for the contract research or research collaboration is signed.

Guidelines on research contracts and other agreements on the Staff Pages

Contact

Anja Ödman
Responsible for research data at the Biology Library and the Geolibrary.
anja [dot] odman [at] science [dot] lu [dot] se
Phone: +46 76 139 17 01

Kurt Mattsson
Responsible for research data at the Physics- and Astronomy Library and Library of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
kurt [dot] mattsson [at] science [dot] lu [dot] se
Phone: +46 79 063 08 23