Nowadays, data is used as the main evidence that supports models in the manner that our natural word is doing. In spite of the fact that many scientists or analysts are still considering what kinds of data they should get to assist their studies and often gather and analyze their data through complicated techniques or approaches, they are not concerning where to store the data and how to do so.
As a consequence, a huge amount of data has got lost. This is such a waste as one realizes that scientific observations have the values and relationships in a necessary set of objects or processes at some location, and may come with the information which is required for investigating research questions that were never expected at the moment the data was gathered. A lot of ecological research can get advantages from approach to extra data. For these reasons, it is necessary to save and store data so that they can be retrieved effectively for future use.
The following post will offer you some guides towards efficient data management. If you can adopt properly, it can benefit not only you but also other researchers regarding long-term preservation and reuse of the data.
Take advantage of a scripted program for analysis
In spite of the fact that it is so difficult to get started because you need to learn a totally new language, making use of a scripted analysis program like the R statistical package, which costs nothing while being so flexible, will help you avoid many problems that may occur in the future. More precisely, analysis scripts are written records of different steps included in data process and analysis, which will offer a form of analytical metadata. Such scripts can be looked at carefully and re-executed at any time you suppose that it should be modified, which often takes places after receiving comments from advisors or reviewers. This scripted access makes many changes to data by choosing and changing values in place. If you use a scripted program for your analysis, you will receive a record of what you carried out with your data right the moment you received it to the time you publish it. In other words, it is easier to recollect your options, even a long time has passed.
Store data in nonproprietary software formats
Proprietary software such as excel and Access can get unavailable, while text files can always be read. Excel and Access have not always become the interested spreadsheet or data storage programs. In the future, they may be replaced by other software or newer versions. If your data files are kept with a proprietary software, when this software goes unused, you data will be lost.
Store data in non-proprietary hardware formats
The same case of software may be applied to hardware formats, which would be outdated. It is often the case that a lot of scientists who own valuable data which are then lost due to the fact that they are saved under old formats, such as 8-track tapes or similar ones. To handle this case, a non-proprietary format would be the Internet instead of different archival media. You may not think of but it is predicted that CD-ROMs are not read easily. On the contrary, the continuity of the Internet seems to be more assured. It is highly recommended to make extra copies of your data on off-line locations thanks to the most popular medium of the current stage. For instance, in 2008, this medium used to be the DVD despite the fact that it came with a limited capacity for some particular purposes, which was just around 8 Gigabytes only. Last but not least, scientists are also encouraged to archive proofed and documented data sets and offer one long-term data storage solution.
Keep on storing an uncorrected data file
You need to remember not to make any adjustments to this file. Instead, changes should be done to the scripted language. As you make corrections to an original data file, you could be altering something which you then realize that it was correct in the first form. It would be so problematic as you did not know where you have changed. Thanks to a scripted language, you can move back the analyses as well as transformations and corrections to your data through making use of the original data as input, but saving the alterations to another data file independently. By this method, you will be able to access your original data values easily. What is more, saving your scripted code with comments can clarify the reason why you need to change something in the process. In a nutshell, it is better to set up your original data file read-only so that it cannot be accidentally changed.
Make use of descriptive names for your data files
As you may have known, file names or table names are still the most convenient way to point out the contents of any file. Thus, it is highly suggested to provide you data files with names which are terse but easy to realize the content.
In general, you should take some clues about the place, time or topic so that it is easier to find the files. There are two tips when it comes to this. First of all, you should not make your file names so long. As you may have known, long names will make it so hard to identify and import files into your analytical scrips. And you should forget not to add blank spaces in your file names because some apps may not be able to import file names with blank spaces. You can also set names depending on the components in the file to easily remember. If you want to separate different parts of a name, you can use underscore or hyphen symbols or capitalize each word in the title. Hopefully, this tip can help you ease finding your files.