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Research Data Management Resources

Data management best practices, funder mandates, data sharing options, and local resources for research data management.

Why Organize?

Good management of data files allows you to efficiently identify, locate, and use your data. You can:

  • Manage large amounts of various data files.
  • Locate and browse for files easily. 
  • Distinguish different files and versions of files within a folder.
  • Prevent confusion when working on teams or sharing files. 
  • Prevent data loss by accidentally overwriting or deleting files.
  • Provide context for retrieval and storage of data. 

File management encompasses:

  • Structuring the hierarchical organization of file folders in a logical and clear way;
  • Planning for the syntax and vocabulary of individual file names;
  • Using agreed-upon conventions consistently.

File Management

File naming and labeling is a combination of organization, consistency, and context

Good habits for structuring folders and files

  • Consider all the types of files that you will handle during the course of the project.
  • Develop a nested folder structure that makes the most sense for your project or team’s retrieval needs (think about categories and granularity).
  • Name folders clearly, without special characters or floats, and avoid redundancy.
  • Use a standard folder structure for each project or subproject (including making empty folders for files not yet created)
  • Create a reference document that notes the purpose of different folders.

Good habits for file naming

A key to well-organized data is a consistent file naming convention. Filenames can communicate much about a data file in less than 25 characters.

A filename is the chief identifier for a data file. (MANTRA)

  • Keep the filename short (about 25 characters)
  • Use consistent elements, consistently
  • Use the standard format for dates and times (YYYY-MM-DD-THH-MM-SS eg. 1999-09-19-T12-54-32).
  • Avoid special characters, spaces, and case dependency
  • When numbering, use the number of leading zeros necessary for the scale of your project (eg. up to 999 files, start with 001) 
  • Have a strategy for documenting versions
  • Don’t overwrite file extensions

Filenames need to make sense for you and your project or team. Some elements to consider for a filename include: 

  • Project name
  • Name of file creator
  • Project number
  • Location
  • File type
  • Sequence ID
  • Accession number
  • Date of creation
  • Version number

Example

 Project_YYYYMMDD_ContentDescription_Initials.ext which consists of the project name, standardized date format, concise description of file content, team member identifier, and file extension

Resources

Tools