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Research Data Management (RDM): File Management

Data management essentials for Melbourne Polytechnic researchers

File Management: What's it about?

Within the RDM context, file management is a set of processes implemented to ensure that the data derived from research is not only safeguarded, but appropriately named, described, stored, and retrievable. 

File Naming: Basic considerations

                                              FILE NAMING  

Work out your file naming approach early - preferably at the start of the project
Ensure that each research team member is aware of the project's filenaming conventions  
Use logical, predictable filenames - making the files easier to locate
Ideally, the filename should indicate something of the file's content

Adopt a consistent approach.  Files are easier to retrieve when the naming logic is reliable and obvious
A date in a filename can help with ordering document versions (eg YYYYMMDD)

For a useful list of file naming considerations, advice and solutions:  13 Conventions of Filenaming  (U. Edinburgh)  
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Folders: Basic considerations

                                          FOLDER NAMING  

The purpose of a folder is to group related files together 
Folders should be named appropriately (usually after the topic, subject, or work area)
Individual researchers' names generally do not belong in the Folder name
Reach agreement on a folder naming scheme from the project's outset
Adopt a hierarchical system - use broad folders, then sub-folders containing more specific information 

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File Renaming


At some point in your research, you may see the need to reorganise your filing system, including renaming your files.  Renaming singular files can be relatively easy.  However, if you have bulk files that need to be renamed, you may wish to take advantage of file renaming programs that automate the process.

For a list of file renaming programs (also known as "Batch Renaming programs) consult Wikipedia's 2021 table of renaming software:  including comparisons of both free and commercial products; with coverage of Windows, Mac, and other Operating Systems.     

List of notable renaming programs  

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Personal & Sensitive Data


When research data contains personal or sensitive aspects, it's important for the researcher to be fully aware and confident of the requirements associated with managing data of this type.  There are several avenues for seeking help and advice:  first, you can explore institutional sources of help and advice, such as your institution's research office staff,  and ethics committee members.  Additionally, the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) publishes guidance, covering the steps to be taken when handling sensitive data.

Source:  Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC)

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File Formats: A summary

You've not considered file formats before? 
For a quick and useful intro, watch this video.

Video source: Ghent University Data Stewards, RDM Knowledge Clips  

File formats: Recommendations


Recommendation 1    
Investigate and choose your file formats prior to gathering any data 

Recommendation 2
Make it your mission to learn more about proprietary or open software (in terms of ensuring longevity of access, reuse and storage)   

Recommendation 3
Take advantage of the Born-Digital File Formats advice available at NAA (National Archives of Australia)

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Sustainable file formats

For further ideas about file formats deemed suitable and sustainable for storing research data, check these resources:  

Monash University:  Durable formats

UK Data Service:  Recommended formats

University of Sydney:  Data publication - use the best format  

Sensitive Data: ANDS advice

Source:  ARDC. (2021). Publishing and sharing sensitive data - flowchart. Zenodo.

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Data Version control


Version control is the practice of tracking the changes made to a project's documents; recording the changes in a new version of the document;  and ensuring that all research team members are working from, and contributing to, the latest version of the same document.

Versioning involves naming your documents in such a way that the latest version is clearly identified.  Version control also ensures that earlier versions are able to be easily retrieved and examined at a later point, when necessary.

Version control is particularly important in situations where numerous people are contributing to (and revising)  the project’s documentation.

Source:  Version Control - University of Leicester  
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Watch: More on data version control

For clear advice on version control, view this video. 
Source:  U of Wisconsin - Data Services via YouTube