Durable formats

The choice of formats for data use, analysis, back-up and storage affects the lifespan of the data, and its eventual re-use. All digital data relies on the hardware and software environment in which it exists, and as formats and software can become obsolete, it’s important to store research data in durable formats to maintain its longevity.

Durable formats are those that will be usable for at least the lifetime of the project and the duration of any statutory and/or legislative retention period, and ideally for long–term preservation.

For digital research data, you should adopt file formats that meet criteria such as:

  • endorsed and published by standards agencies such as Standards Australia and ISO
  • publicly documented, i.e. complete authoritative specifications are available
  • the product of collaborative development and consultative processes
  • self-documenting, i.e. the digital file itself can include useful metadata
  • widely used and accepted as best practice within the researcher's discipline or another user community.

You should also consider the long-term availability and support of hardware and software used to create and manipulate research data. Considerations include:

  • the likely time that the hardware and software will be available
  • the size and level of activity of the developer and user communities
  • the level of technical support that is available now and in the future.

For a table of suggested durable formats please see: UK Data Archive: Formatting your data

You should document any special hardware and software requirements as part of data management planning.