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We conducted an online survey of researchers at LSE to find out the current awareness of data preservation, the type of skills that would be needed and the best method of delivering training.

There were 167 responses, 56% of them from PhD students.  Respondents were spread across the academic departments and centres of the School, so the results should be reasonably representative of the researcher community here.

Below is a brief summary of our findings.  For an executive summary, download the short report or, if you are having trouble sleeping, you can download the full report.

Synopsis

The survey showed the general lack of awareness amongst LSE researchers of digital data preservation: this isn’t a criticism, if we had found a good awareness we would probably have to stop the project! We also found that there are cultural challenges to address as well as the need for more technical training if researchers are to send their research data and materials into the future with confidence.

Researchers are using a wide range of technologies to create research data in a variety of formats, so as well as the general principles of digital preservation, we will use case studies of the major data types in the materials that DICE produces.

The survey shows that researchers have a preference for informal support and autodidactic methods of learning. Although no one method is suited to everyone, we will target the methods of training and support that showed the most popularity, and produce re-purposable materials wherever possible.

There is a presumption that data preservation and public availability of that data go hand-in-hand, however we identified a need for data preservation without public availability. There seems to be an acceptance by the researchers that this restricted preservation will take place under the control of the researchers themselves and on their own systems, which suggests that a Personal Archiving approach may be appropriate for some researchers whether or not the School provides the repository for the data.

In general, research data are not well documented: researchers using others’ data have reported difficulty understanding it, or even understanding their own data after a few years! The documentation of data is important for preservation so this will be included in the DICE outputs.

[posted by MR]

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