2 July 2018

Three workable suggestions to reduce your costs for data management

Good  research data management makes sure your data is not only well-organised to your own advantage, but is also ready to meet requirements of funders, journal, or the university.

One part of data management planning that is too often overlooked, is getting an overview of the costs that are involved. If you fail to have an overview of the costs relating to all aspects of the management of data for your project, you can be in for a nasty surprise as soon as they pop up. An even better outcome of a good data management preparation is to plan your research in such a way that it leads to cost-reduction beforehand. This sounds good! Below you will find three useful ways to reduce or prevent unnecessary costs.

  1. Start immediately on how to understand your data

Research needs to be transparent and reproducible, to say the least. Perhaps your data is also suitable to share with others for reuse. In any case, others will have to understand what you did. So will your future self. Document your data as soon as you get results in, and do not postpone noting down details of your methods. Tracing back detailed descriptions of your measurements or variables will be very time-consuming, or even impossible to assign, afterwards. Make this part of your daily routine, and write down in your data management plan what you will document just as a reminder. In this way it will not take a disproportionate amount of time to fix any problems, preventing you to start with new exiting research. Time is money, after all.


  1. Do you really need al that data?

Storing and handling data can be costly. Are you sure you are collecting what you need? It could be wise to reconsider the level of detail that you want to measure. Say you measure every second, but plan to average that to a day, perhaps an hourly measure or even a single measure every day will suffice. Or from another point of view:  perhaps your statistical power is enough with half the measurements you planned. You could consult a statistician to find out, and possibly save money and time. If it turns out that collecting half of what you planned is enough, you have reduced storage costs by half. There you go.


  1. Get Informed Consent for the right things

In handling personal data, informed consent is required for the handling itself and the purpose of the handling. If you get a very narrow consent, for instance only for the current research, it  may result in you having to recontact every participant, should you decide to start a follow-up study. This could be a lengthy and costly procedure. If you allow for (specific) reuse in the informed consent, with appropriate safeguards, this will enable you to do further research with the same data. Don’t  be too late in thinking about it!

There are many more ways to reduce or prevent costs for data management. The Utrecht University cost guide will give you an overview of possible costs, and provides tips to keep these costs as low as possible. Do you need tailored advice on your data management planning and costs? Contact the RDM support experts at info.rdm@uu.nl