Creating data

There are many decisions to make before you begin to create your data. These decisions will affect how you can access, use and manage your data. It is time and effort efficient to make these decisions early in the project lifecycle. Many funders will expect you to provide evidence to show that you have completed a satisfactory level of data planning.

Data protection, ethics and security
How do ethical issues affect my research data?

Ethical guidelines issued by funders and the University cover how you can create and store data.

GCU's Research Ethics Sub-Committee stipulates that all research conducted by staff and students of the University which involves human participants, or includes human tissue samples, is subject to ethical scrutiny and approval.

Ethical review is usually conducted through your School Ethics Committee. For further information visit your School's web pages:

How does data protection affect my research data?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 govern the processing of personal data. The Information Matters intranet site offers guidance to support researchers in complying with Data Protection legislation.

The Information Compliance department has created a workflow to help you make decisions about data protection issues which may relate to your project.

How do I negotiate consent with research participants?

A consent form should be completed by all participants when conducting interviews or research. Participants should be asked to sign a consent form which outlines:

  • What the data is being collected for
  • Who will process the data
  • Any likely re-uses of the data

You will be required to provide a Privacy Notice whenever you obtain personal data directly from individuals. In research this is likely to take the form of a participants' information sheet.

Guidance for Researchers document is available from the Information Matters intranet site and provides detailed information about obtaining consent from participants.

How do I store my data?

Due to the often sensitive and confidential nature of the information created and managed during research projects, it is imperative that appropriate security measures are in place and that all staff are aware of the need to keep information secure. During the research project and on its completion, records and data must be stored in a secure and appropriate environment. The selected store should provide adequate space, security, access control and environmental conditions. Appropriate technical procedures should be established to ensure that instances of unauthorised access, loss or misuse of data do not occur. These procedures should apply to both on and off-campus activity, especially if staff work from home. Access to all personal data should be controlled through the use of passwords, which must be changed on a regular basis. See our webpage for further information about storing your data.

Paper records

Records must be kept in locked cabinets and in locked offices or storage rooms. Access to cabinets, offices and storage rooms must be restricted to authorised personnel only.

Information should be destroyed appropriately, either using a cross-cut shredder or by using the University's confidential waste service. If you need to destroy papers containing confidential information you should use the University's shredding contractor Shred-It. Contact the Facilities Helpdesk to request confidential waste bags. Once you've provided Shred-It with a purchase order they will confirm collection arrangements.

Electronic records
  • Ensure that your PC is locked whenever you are away from your desk
  • Passwords should never be shared with other members of staff and should be changed on a regular basis (and always when a member of staff leaves a project)
  • Each study database should be password protected with its own unique password and access to the password restricted to authorised personnel only
  • Where identifiable data is not a requirement of the research project, the data should be retained in an anonymised format
How do I share or publish my findings?

There can be a tension between abiding by data protection legislation and ethical guidelines, whilst fulfilling funder and public expectations to make research data available.

Confidential and personal data (such as information which identifies an individual) can only be shared if consent has been given for this. It is customary to protect participants' identities through anonymisation and control access by restricting who can use the data. Consult with your School Ethics Committee if you are unsure whether your data can be shared or published.

See our webpage for further information about sharing your data.

The UK Data Service also provides some useful guidance on consent and ethics.

File formats
What should I consider when choosing file formats?

The formats you choose will depend on:

  • How you plan to analyse your data
  • What software is compatible with the hardware that you have available
  • Preferences between proprietary and open software
  • Any discipline-specific norms (and the associated peer-to-peer support that comes with them)
  • How you plan to archive your data

You may choose certain formats during data collection and analysis but others for preservation - for example, by converting your data to standard or open formats. Sometimes the data centre you use to archive your data will convert the file formats for you.

What formats do data centres expect?

You may choose or be required to submit your data to a data centre. They may convert your data to a preferred format for preservation. It's worth thinking about how these decisions may affect your ability to access and re-use your data in the future.

The UK Data Archive list of preferred formats gives an indication of standards to which data centres typically work. It is often easiest to create your data in these formats and prevent the need for format conversion prior to archiving.

The National Archives offer a guide to selecting file formats for long-term preservation which provides a detailed description of file format considerations and offers an insight into how professional archivists view the issue.