What’s the worst thing that can happen to your data? 

‘What’s the worst thing that can happen to your data?’ Coordinating Data Steward, Eri van Heijnsbergen, was asked this question a while back. Her answer: That the data are forgotten.

“After finishing my PhD project, it is most likely that  no one has ever looked at my data and I think that’s a shame. I believe that my dataset could still be useful for research. During my PhD project, I was not familiar with the FAIR data principles to make my data ‘Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable’, and never thought of publishing my data.

In my current position as coordinating Data Steward within the Plant Sciences Group at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), I give advice on storage and publication of research data, among other things. At WUR, all research groups have a so-called embedded data stewards who are researchers that conduct various research data management support tasks. For example, they help researchers in their group write  data management plans and play an important role in creating awareness and support for the FAIR principles.”

“Data is what research is all about and data is worth taking good care of…”

— Eri van Heijnsbergen.

“I am, so to say a ‘research data management fan’… Data is what research is all about and data is worth taking good care of.  Even if you think your data is perhaps too small or too specific, it can be valuable for other research.

Of course, it’s important that data is findable and understandable which requires appropriate data management. And, good data management takes time which is something that researchers typically don’t have much of! But, managing data properly from the start of a research project is an investment, and you can achieve a great deal with small steps, such as creating a document with the variable names that your dataset contains, for example.

You’re not only helping future researchers who want to understand or use your data, but first and foremost, you are benefitting yourself.”

Author: Eri van Heijnsbergen (Wageningen University and Research)
Editor: Connie Clare (4TU.ResearchData)
Adapted cover photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

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