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Research Data, Data Management & Planning: During Research

Resources related to Research Data Management & Planning and Finding Research Datasets

Best Practices in Data Management

Active Data Storage

A key aspect of research data management is a solid storage strategy for your active data and archived data. "Active data" are the data you are collecting and analyzing for your research project. For more information on archiving data, please see this page on data repositories.

At the University of Wyoming, one option for active data storage is OneDrive for Business. University accounts each have 5 TB of online OneDrive space, with additional space available upon request. For researchers, another option is the Data Commons, provided by ARCC. This is a highly collaborative space geared towards project-oriented data storage for use with multiple researchers at UWyo and beyond. To provide enhanced collaboration and control, Principal Investigators may assign access permissions to other UWyo users as well as external users. There is no cost to store up to 500 GB, and researchers can pay for more storage space. 

Data Security

Many types of data may contain confidential or sensitive information that must be protected. In some cases, there may even be legal or regulatory standards that must be followed (such as HIPAA). There are several information security techniques that may be employed to protect your data:

  • Encryption: offers protection by scrambling data, so only the owner of the key or password can read the data.
  • Access Control: allow an administrator to specify who is allowed to access digital material and the type of access that is permitted (for example read only, write).
  • Redaction/anonymization/deidentification: the process of analyzing a digital resource, identifying confidential or sensitive information, and removing or replacing it. You should always carry out any anonymization work on a copy of the original data, not the original data itself.
  • Physical Security: involves controlling access to buildings or rooms where your data is held. This may be as simple as ensuring that the lab where your workstation is located is locked, with key card access only granted to you and your lab personnel.

Researchers interested in data security measures should contact ARCC.

File Naming & Organization

Following file naming conventions helps you organize your data files and makes them easier to discover and retrieve. File names should:

  • Be extensible: "ex001" not "ex1"
  • Be unique: not 20 files called "data.xlsx"
  • Only use numbers, letters, and underscores
  • Embody their contents (and parameters): AtherRat_ex012_ather_lipito_128.tif
  • Have non-cryptic names: AtherRate_SOP_DataValidation_v01.docx
  • Be consistent and documented!

Using a system like this results in a folder that sorts well. Of course, creating a file naming convention that is easily documentable does not preclude the need to actually create that documentation! Something as simple as a ReadMe file in the directory with the files can prevent a great deal of future confusion. 

For more information on file naming conventions, check out these best practices from Stanford Libraries or these 10 Rules for Best Practice.

Data Backup

Never rely on a single copy of data.  Keep your source (primary, or raw) data separate from your active data, and always make a copy of it before working on the data. CD's and DVD's are not reliable as long-term storage options. Their life expectancy is only 2-5 years, and they need to be stored under the appropriate environmental conditions. Hard drives have a life expectancy of 4-6 years. USB (thumb) drives are not a good option.  They are easily lost and stolen.  

At the very least, you should have one separate backup of your data. Best practice is to follow the 3-2-1 Rule. You should have three copies of your data, in two different physical locations, on at least one different type of media.  


For more information on creating robust documentation, metadata, and ReadMes, please visit the Metadata and ReadMe page.