Data best practices

The following are some of the components necessary for solid data management practices. Visit the linked pages for detailed information that will help you keep your data well-organized. 

For more information on managing data, visit our FAQ or check out the article "Nine simple ways to make it easier to (re)use your data" by White, et al, from Ideas in Ecology and Evolution.

Interested in learning more about data best practices? Check out our workshop.

Hello my name is, photo by Robert OcchialiniUse descriptive and informative file names.

file folders, photo by Caren ParmeleeChoose file formats that will ensure long-term access.

butterflies emerging from cocoons, photo by Jeff FriendTrack different versions of your documents.

metadata is a love note to the future tshirt, photo by Flickr user sarah0sCreate metadata for every experiment or analysis you run.

Swiss army knife, image by AJ Cann Find helpful tools for analyzing your data.

Doctor viewing films, image from Stanford All-Image ExchangeHandle sensitive data in an appropriate manner.


Long-term planning

Document your plan

Once you have started to implement best practices for yourself and your research group, make an effort to document these plans. Include your and your group's procedures for the following:

  • Naming files
  • Saving and backing up files
  • Describing data files
  • Tracking versions

You might consider using a wiki or a Google doc that everyone in your group can access when needed. Be sure to define who is responsible for each task and for setting the overall policies.

Plan for knowledge transfer

As a last step, don't forget to create and implement a plan for how to transfer knowledge about a project when it changes hands or when someone leaves the group. This will help prevent valuable information from getting lost!

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about best practices? Try these great web sites: