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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction to Data Management for Undergraduate Students: Data Preservation

This guide covers the basics and best practices for data management for individuals who are new to the research and data-collecting process.

What is Preservation?

Preservation means following procedures to keep data files for an extended period of time by choosing durable formats, archiving files locally, and/or submitting data files to a data repository.

Resources for Preservation

Illinois Data Bank Preservation Policy

For an example of a preservation policy, you can review the policy established for our institutional data repository, here at the University of Illinois.

Why should you preserve your data?

Data preservation refers to maintaining access to data and files over time. For data to be preserved, at minimum, it must be stored in a secure location, stored across multiple locations, and saved in file formats that will likely have the greatest utility in the future:

  Five ranges describing file formats from less preservable to more preservable. The first range goes from proprietary (example: Microsoft Excel) to open (example: OpenOffice Calc, CSV). The second range goes from limited adoption (example: OpenOffice Calc) to widely adopted (example: Microsoft Excel, CSV). The third range goes from limited support (example: spv files) to widely supported (CSV, XML). The fourth range goes from embedded content / DRM (example: Microsoft excel with macros enabled) to nothing embedded (example: ASCII). The fifth range goes from lossy compression (example: JPEG) to lossless compression (TIFF, JPEG 2000).


Data preservation may seem like a lot of work, but there’s good news! A lot of institutions run data repositories, which support the preservation and discovery of research data. Find out if your discipline has a data repository, and check out the Illinois Data Bank where many researchers on campus have preserved and shared their data.  This isn’t a complete list, so be sure to check with your subject librarian for more help.