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Data Management: Managing Older Data

Resources and strategies for managing research data

Retaining Your Older Data

Back Up Your Notes

You forget details over time and it's incredibly difficult to reuse old data without documentation.

Don't forget to back up your written notes! This is especially important for graduate students whose PIs keep their research notebook. Scan or photocopy your notes and keep them with your data.

Change File Formats

Files using proprietary file formats are more difficult to use over time. Convert your data into an open, non-proprietary format that is in wide. This will improve the odds on reusing your data in the future.

Keep a copy of your data in both formats. The original file lets you use all of the file features and the open copy is a backup in case something happens to the software.

This table lays out some file format recommendations:

Recommended File Formats
Text files .txt
Images .tiff
Tabular data .csv, .tsv
Video .mp4
Audio .mp3
Other .pdf


Convert Media

The sad fact is that hardware fails and becomes obsolete (think: floppy disks). Therefore, you need to periodically move your data to new storage media.

Plan to update your storage media every 3-5 years. Move your data to the current technology to avoid falling behind.

Use a Repository

The easiest way to care for old data is to let someone else do it for you. This is one purpose of a data repository.

More Information

The Data Services librarian position is currently vacant. You may direct your questions to the Scholarly Communication team at 

The content of this guide is available under a CC-BY license with attribution to UWM Libraries.