Preserving Data – Introduction

For clarity’s sake, preserving data does not equal storing or backing up your data. When we use the words data preservation, then without exception we are talking about a milestone version of your data which is not in active use anymore. As it’s not subject to change, one could compare it to a mosquito caught in amber.

Research should be transparent and you should always be able to revert back to your data if necessary and be able to show others how you came to your results. Therefore, your research data with all information reasonably necessary for verification needs to be preserved.

With well-managed and preserved research data, you can defend yourself against allegations of mistakes. You can also prevent wrong conclusions from further spreading into the scientific community if there really are mistakes.

The main reasons for data preservation are

  • Ensuring that your research can be verified and reproduced;
  • Maintaining data for future reuse (e.g. further research/teaching)

Additionally, it can also be your own wish or that of your university, funder or journal.


For the FWO, the emphasis is on long-term data preservation and management. The data are targeted to be preserved for a period of at least five years from the end of the research. The DMP related questions in the application form are related to this central aspect.


It may be worthwhile to make (part of) your data available for a longer period of time and/or for a wider audience. Data which are suitable to keep for reuse are interpretable data on which new research can be based, independent of the publication.

On the one hand, making research data reusable will need extra effort. On the other hand, possible reuse, even by your future self, might bring you lots of benefits and credits. Consider if your data is worth the effort of making it reusable or if preserving and archiving for verification is enough.