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Research Data Management: Data Preservation & Disposal

This library guide outlines the basics of data management and creating a data management plan.

Beyond the Research Project

Preserving data after a project has ended will:

  • Maintain long-term access 
  • Enable its discovery and usage in the future
  • Prevent data loss
  • Provide support should outcomes of the research be challenged

An active long-term preservation plan should consider:

  • Ongoing reponsibility and ownership of the data
  • Recommended retention periods
  • Long-term storage location e.g. data repositories
  • Methods of data sharing

The preservation of data may also have legal, contractual or ethical considerations attached to it, possibly determined by law, a funding agency or a publisher. 

Data Repositories

For long-term preservation, datasets should be deposited in a data repository or archive. There are a wide array of domain repositories available, which accept data from specific subjects or of certain data types. For example, the Qualitative Data Repository accepts active citation compilations, data collections, and topic clusters.

The following websites provide directories of repositories and are a great starting point for considering a domain repository:

If no suitable domain repository can be located, please ascertain whether Unisa hosts a data depository which provides researchers with a secure site for storage and long-term preservation of datasets that are no longer actively in use and what the capacity is, for example no files exceeding 50 GB.

It is extremely beneficial to determine in which repository you will deposit your data early in your planning process. Many repositories expect data and metadata to be of certain types and in certain formats. Being aware of your selected repository's requirements will allow you to manage your data accordingly. DataONE provides best practice guides on things like deciding what data to preserve, identifying data sensitivity and what data has long-term value.

South African Data Archive - SADA

"The South African Data Archive serves as a broker between a range of data providers (for example, statistical agencies, government departments, opinion and market research companies and academic institutions) and the research community. The archive does not only preserve data for future use, but all adds value to the collections. It safeguards datasets and related documentation and attempts to make it as easily accessible as possible for research and educational purposes."   For more information see South African Data Archive


Data Disposal

This section is still under review.