Durable formats

For digital research data, you should adopt file formats that meet criteria such as:

  • endorsed and published by standards agencies such as Standards Australia and ISO
  • publicly documented, i.e. complete authoritative specifications are available
  • the product of collaborative development and consultative processes
  • self-documenting, i.e. the digital file itself can include useful metadata
  • widely used and accepted as best practice within the researcher's discipline or another user community

Formats independent from specific platforms, hardware, or software

You should also consider the long-term availability of, and support for, any hardware and software used to create and manipulate research data. Considerations include:

  • the likely time that the hardware and software will be available
  • the size and level of activity of the developer and user communities
  • the level of technical support that is available now and in the future.

Where there is a reliance on specific software, you should consider storing the programs and any related documentation with the research data, if the terms and conditions under which you bought or licensed the software permit you to do this. You should document any special hardware and software requirements as part of data planning.

Managing non-digital data

Non-digital formats refer to the physical medium in which research data is recorded or carried, and includes but is not limited to paper (including files, cards, volumes, notebooks, maps and plans), photographs, film, or objects. These formats are at risk of data loss and degradation.

Printed materials and photographs degrade over time from exposure to sunlight, moisture, pests and acid. High quality media should be used for preparing paper-based materials for storage, or for copies of originals. Such precautions include using acid-free paper, folders and boxes and non-rust paper clips rather than staples.

    • Contact your faculty for advice on local protocols for managing non-digital data.

Where practical, digitisation (where you are the copyright owner) can offer a sustainable solution to preserving a copy of your research data. For further information and advice on digitisation contact researchdata@monash.edu