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Safeguarding Research Data

Why it matters

"Data are at the centre of all research and it is essential that you take good care of research data to ensure that you do not lose all your hard work should something unexpected happen. Remember, recovering lost data is likely to take time, could be costly, and in the worst case scenario your data may even be impossible to recover" (Mantra.  Keeping Research Data Safe: Introduction).

Storing your Data

Best Practices



Choose storage options that are secure, include reliable backup strategies, and allow access control and encryption options.


  • Consider the 3-2-1 model of data storage - maintaining 3 copies of your data, on at least 2 formats, with at least 1 stored at an alternate site. 

  • Save a copy of your raw data file as a read-only master file in a password protected folder on the College network.
  • Save all your revisions as new files, in a dedicated "data versions" folder; include the version number in each filename e.g., filename_v1;  filename_v2 etc.
  • Don't create or store your working data on non-enterprise cloud services, e.g., survey tools, group work-spaces, open/shared document platforms or use 3rd party file transferring services since:
    • their data loss prevention practices and data encryption may be inadequate
    • their privacy polices may conflict with your various legal, ethical and institutional obligations
    • their terms of use could require that you assign some or all of your copyrights to the service

Setting up a DC Teams group instead will allow you to share your working data seamlessly and securely, even with team members who are not College employees.  To learn more see the Managing Data with Colleagues page in this guide.


  • Avoid using unencrypted / low-end removable storage devices, e.g., unencrypted/cheap flash drives. 
    • NOTE: even good quality, encrypted flash drives are easier to lose than files saved to an external hard drive or the College's SharePoint / OneDrive / Teams platforms. 

  • Don't store your data on devices that others have access to, e.g., shared home or office computer.

  • Non-digital materials, e.g., field notebooks, photographs, print forms etc., should be backed up and stored securely, e.g., in double-locked spaces, such as a locked, fire-proof filing cabinet in a locked office that only authorized members can access.

For more information about data privacy and encryption see the Private/Sensitive Data and Encryption & Access Control pages in this guide.


Backing up your Data


Even a partial loss of your data could derail your entire research project, so it's crucial to set up a sensible back up strategy and schedule.


Major Considerations:

  • Is the automatic backup schedule for the College network drive sufficient for your needs?
    • SharePoint/OneDrive backups happen automatically but only the previous 30 days' versions are kept. 
    • If you need guaranteed access to older versions for more than a rolling 30 days you will need to maintain your own version archive as described in the box above.
  • How much storage space do you need to back up your files? 
  • Do you have enough space to keep previous back ups
  • Do you need specialized software or hardware to create the backups, e.g., to scan print originals
  • Will you only back up new additions to your master files or will you routinely back up your entire set of files?
  • How will you document your various back up files?  This is crucial when you need to back up multiple formats and devices. 
  • What is your long-term back up plan?  e.g., will you be willing/able to shift to new formats if your current software and/or storage media  become obsolete?
  • Does your back up plan require extra funding

For more detailed advice about best practices in data storage and back up activities see Mantra's excellent online module: Keeping Research Data Safe