What is Research Data?

Research data is the evidence that underpins all research conclusions (except those which are purely theoretical) and includes data that have been collected, observed, generated, created or obtained (from commercial, government or other sources) for subsequent analysis and synthesis to produce original research results. These results are then used to generate research papers and submitted for publication.

You should regard research data as anything and everything produced in the course of the research, irrespective of what form it’s in.


Such data can be generated or collected for different purposes and through different processes.

Data can be observational, experimental, simulations, derived or compliled, referenced or canonical (a collection of smaller curated datasets ie chemical structures, spatial data portals)


Formats can vary:

Discipline specific

Instrumental specific


Multimedia – jpeg, tiff, dicom, mpeg, quicktime






  • Audiotapes, videotapes
  • Collection of digital objects acquired and generated during the process of research
  • Contents of a software application (input, output, logfiles for analysis software, source code, schemas)
  • Data files
  • Database contents (video, audio, text, images)
  • Documents (text, Word), spreadsheets
  • Laboratory notebooks, field notebooks, diaries
  • Methodologies and workflows
  • Models, algorithms, scripts
  • Photographs, films
  • Questionnaires, transcripts, codebooks
  • Slides, artefacts, specimens, samples
  • Standard operating procedures and protocols
  • Test responses

The following would not be regarded as research data but if considered important should be managed during and beyond the life of a project:

  • Correspondence (email and paper-based)
  • Project files
  • Grant applications
  • Ethics applications
  • Technical reports
  • Research reports
  • Master lists
  • Signed consent forms

Thanks to Imperial College London http://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/support-for-staff/scholarly-communication/research-data-management/introduction-to-research-data-management/what-is-research-data/