The Edinburgh Napier University Research Data Policy mandates that University approved systems must be used for storing all research data. This applies whether research is funded externally or internally.
Managed data storage for digital research material is provided by Information Services as follows:
- Externally funded research project: 0.5TB per project X:drive when requested by the Principal Investigator. This is requested via the IT Service Desk, with project finance code [RXXX] as reference number.
- Researcher on internally funded research projects: 10GB X:drive when requested by the researcher. This is requested via the IT Service Desk, with project finance code [NXXX] as reference number.
- PhD research student: 10GB V:drive. All current PhD students have been given a V:drive. All new PhD research students will have their V:drive enabled when their IT accounts are created.
Larger storage requirements for data-abundant projects should also be requested via the IS Help Desk (FAO Lynn McIntosh and team) and these will be considered on a per project basis.
Commercial services such as Dropbox do not provide sufficient security and protection against unauthorised access and do not meet the requirement of the new GDPR legislation.
If using external services, you must be aware of the security and backup facilities provided. You should also be clear where the data servers are located as GDPR legislation requires that all personal data is stored within the EU.
More information on storing data can be found on the UK data service website
Not all research data is digital. Most researchers keep hand-written laboratory notebooks, journals and other materials, which are not kept on a computer at all.
These materials are at particular risk of loss, as you only have one of them so it's worth thinking about how you can make them safer. Digitising them can be easy on a small scale, and even if you only use the non-digital version, having a digital version too can give you some valuable piece of mind.
Anything stored on paper can be scanned fairly easily. If it's not easy to scan, you could try taking a digital photo, but check the quality of the image to make sure you can use it if you lose the original.
Audio recordings can easily be turned into digital sound files, if the sound content is important, or transcribed if only the words are needed. You can do this yourself, or employ a professional transcription service if you have a lot of recordings to digitise.
Other materials can also be digitised, with varying degrees of difficulty. For more detail on digitisation, take a look at these digitisation guides from Jisc Digital Media.
If it is not practical to digitise the data or artefact, you should make sure that they are protected some other way.
Keep in mind, good file organisation applies to both electronic and physical files, folders and other materials.
Avoiding Data Loss
Files can be lost accidentally in many different ways. Even if they are not lost completely, they can occasionally become corrupted. If a file is severely corrupted it may be unusable, but even subtle corruption may introduce errors which go unnoticed while affecting the outcome of your research.
University-managed data storage is resilient, with multiple copies stored in more than one physical location and protected against corruption. Daily backups are kept for 14 days and monthly backups for an additional year. If you accidentally delete a file, the 'Previous Versions' feature of the storage enables you to recover files.
Backups: If you are using other data storage options, you should ensure you have an effective backup strategy in place. Regular backups (ideally automated) to several different locations will ensure that if one copy is lost or corrupt, you can easily get it back. When deciding how often to back up, think about the maximum number of days' work you would be prepared to lose.
All backups including physical resources (e.g. DVD-ROM, USB storage) should meet the expectations in the Information security guidance.
Checksum tools can be used to detect corruption in files. A checksum is a file's digital signature, which can then be used to detect unexpected changes in their contents.
Not all research is conducted on campus. If your data are stored on the University managed research storage, you can access them when you are working remotely using VPN.
Alternatively, Information Services provides guidance on remote working, which includes information on how to connect to networked drives.
If your data is sensitive or confidential you should ensure that they are secured whilst you are working remotely in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Advice is available from Information Services on data security off-campus.
Security and Controlling Access
It is important that you keep your research data safe and secure while you are working on them. Data security involves ensuring that only authorised people have access to read, edit or use your data. This protects against both inappropriate disclosure of information and malicious or accidental modification.
The University’s information security guidance applies to research data and must be read by all researchers. The guidance includes information on encryption, access control, using your own devices, mobile computing and network security. Online training is available.
Access restrictions: You must secure your data if they contain personal information, to protect the identity of people covered by the Data Protection Act. You may be contractually obliged to keep research data confidential if they are covered by intellectual property agreements or are commercially sensitive.
Sending data: You will sometimes need to send data to people who don't have access to your secure storage system (X:Drive or V:Drive). Encrypting a file before you send it via insecure means (e.g. email) ensures that the contents can only be read by someone who has the key. Advice on data security and encryption is available from Information Services.
Securing data: Data security applies to both electronic and physical resources and involves the use of passwords, encryption, and physical locks. Information Services provides guidance on creating a strong password. Physical data and mobile storage devices can be securely stored by locking them in drawers or cabinets and locking rooms when unattended as per the University records and information security guidance.