Research data management is the practice of handling research data throughout its life cycle. It includes all aspects of maintaining, sharing, backing up and security of data.

Research data: Data, or units of information which are created in the course of funded or unfunded research, and often arranged or formatted in a such a way as to make them suitable for communication, interpretation, and processing, perhaps by a computer. Examples of research data may include a spreadsheet of statistics, a series of email messages, a sound recording of an interview, a descriptive record of a rock specimen, or a collection of digital images. Research data does not include data generated in the course of personal activities, desktop or mailbox backups, or data produced by non-research activities such as university administration and teaching.

Dataset: A general term often used to describe a collection of research data. A digital dataset might comprise a single element such as a spreadsheet of numerical data; it could equally comprise a collection of related elements such as spreadsheets, images or the readings on a particular day from a scientific instrument or a mixture of these.

Live data: Data that is being worked on as part of a research project. The files containing the data will need to be accessed and amended or updated as new data is gathered or processed. A snapshot of live data can be archived to create a version that is no longer worked on and which is stable and can be cited. Some datasets are never ‘finished’ (eg longitudinal studies).

Raw or Primary data is information created or found by the researcher, as opposed to secondary data which is sourced from already existing datasets. Raw data has not been subjected to processing or any other manipulation.

Confidential data (restricted-Use  or restricted data): Data that can be connected to the person providing them or that could lead to the identification of a person referred to (names, addresses, occupation, photographs). Or data that are given in confidence, or data agreed to be kept confidential (secret) between two parties, that are not in the public domain. Or data that are conditioned by factors such as ethical guidelines, legal requirements or research-specific consent agreements.

Metadata: Documentation or information about a data set. It may be embedded in the data itself, or exist separately from the data. Metadata may describe the ownership, purpose, methods, organization, and conditions for use of data, technical information about the data, and other information. Many metadata standards exist across a broad range of disciplines and applications.

Data Management Plan: a document that specifies your plans for managing your data and files for a research project. This includes such details as naming and folder conventions, storage space, security and back-up, how you will work with others and share files, and what you will do with the files over the medium or long term.

Data storage is the means by which research data is held. For digital data this may include networked drives, personal systems or external storage devices, whereas for physical data it may consist of filing cabinets.

Data sharing is the process of actively making data available, contributing to an open and cumulative research community.

Data deposit: The process of committing data to a repository or other storage facility.

Code book:


Reproducibility is the ability of an entire experiment or study to be reproduced, either by the researcher or by someone else working independently.

Data security refers to the protection information. It may relate to the prevention of both unauthorised access by others and  loss of data.

Embargo: A period during which access to research data is not allowed to certain types of users. This is either to protect the revenue of the publisher or (more generally) to protect the interests of other parties (for example, partner research organisations).

Confidentiality: The right of privacy and of non-release of disclosed personal information. Applies to data collected on human subjects. Researchers may be subject to legal requirements to prevent the release of private, personally identifiable information provided by research subjects.

End User Agreement (or User Agreement): A legal contract between the manufacturer and/or the author and the end user of an application. The contract details how the application can and cannot be used.