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Describing your data using Research Data Footprints – improving discoverability

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At Deakin University, research data are broadly defined as all data created by researchers in the course of their work

  • all data are important
  • data that cannot be repeated are especially important

Metadata is the data that describes your research data. It is the information used to describe an item's attributes in a standardised format. It is the documentation that accompanies the research data which makes it discoverable and usable over time. It describes what your data is, how it can be used, and how it is physically put together. It allows both your future self and other researchers to interpret your data and determine who, what, when, where and why of the data produced or collected.

Metadata may be stored as XML, in an accompanying document, a set of data fields in a repository, a README file or a record in Deakin's Research Data Footprints.

Metadata is generally classified into three broad categories:

  • Descriptive metadata for discoverability is the information that enables a dataset to be discovered and identified.
  • Administrative metadata is the technical information that helps to manage the dataset.
  • Structural metadata describes how different components of a set of associated data relate to one another.

diagram with an arrow starting from the text

The best time to add documentation and metadata (data descriptions) to the documents and datasets you create, is as you create them. Documenting data throughout the research process is easier than creating all the descriptive information at the completion of the project. Documenting your research data as it is created also saves time and reduces the risk of documentation errors.

  • What is research data?
  • Where should I store my research data and information?
  • Why should I use university services to store my research data?
  • What is research data?
  • How do I know if my data is important?
  • Why share information about my data?
  • What is the purpose of RDA?
  • What are the benefits of sharing my data in DRO?
  • Where do I provide the information about my data so it can be described?
  • Will I still control my data?
  • When should I not share my data?
  • My dataset involves humans, doesn't identify individuals, but I didn't specify that it would be reused by others. Can I share it?
  • Individuals may be identified in my data, but they are very valuable for further research. Is there any way in which I may share them?

Yes, Research Librarians will review your descriptive record prior to publishing it to DRO. A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) will also be minted as a permanent link for your data description record.

Research Data Footprints Data Description workflow

Diagram shows process flow with 5 arrows in a line with the following text. Enter your data description in Research Data Footprints. Submit your data description for publication. Data description reviewed by library. Publish data description to DRO. RDA harvests description from RDO.

When you use Deakin's Research Data Footprints to describe your data collection, the descriptions will be published to Deakin Research Online (DRO) and harvested by Research Data Australia (RDA). The data descriptions will be discoverable online by the wider research community using Google Scholar and other search engines.

The descriptive record in Research Data Footprints will be accessible by:

  • the person who created it
  • any other Deakin person you grant access to (You should give other researchers on the project access to view or edit the record.)
  • library staff who will review the record before submission to DRO.

No – you are not required to share your data. Data descriptions (metadata) have value to you as a researcher, and to Deakin, even if your data is never shared.

Some data must not be shared due to ethical, privacy, policy and commercial reasons. Some data can only be shared after it has been de-identified.

Contact Deakin Research for help with understanding the issues to consider before sharing your data.

Research Data Australia (RDA) is designed to promote visibility of research data collections and to encourage their re-use through a web site describing data collections produced by or relevant to Australian researchers. RDA provides a comprehensive window into the Australian Research Data Commons.

Deakin Research Online (DRO) is a secure open access institutional repository which stores, manages, indexes, preserves and showcases research outputs produced by Deakin University researchers, staff, and higher degree research students, making it discoverable throughout the world.

Some research data may need to remain confidential because of:

  • contracts with sponsors
  • to protect Intellectual Property
  • to protect privacy or confidentiality of research participants
  • to protect the copyright of others

You do not need approval to make human data that do not identify individuals available to others unless assurances were given to participants that this would not be done.

Any researcher wishing to use it must complete whatever review or exemption process is required for their institution. At Deakin this is covered by an exemption process.

You may de-identify data in order to share it, but you must take care to ensure that it cannot be re-identified when used in conjunction with other related data files.

Where data must be stored in identifiable form, ensure that that appropriate consent is obtained from the original participants for the reuse of their information.

If sharing the data was not part of your original plan, you will need to obtain written consent from participants for the further use of their data, or the researchers seeking access to the data will need to obtain a waiver of consent under the applicable legislation. Access to personal information is governed by complex laws and guidelines. In this case you should contact an Ethics Advisor to discuss the proposed access and obtain tailored advice

To access Research Data Footprints it is recommended that you use Mozilla Firefox. You can install Mozilla Firefox on a Deakin computer from the software catalogue (Windows) or self service (Mac). For non-Deakin Desktop computers, install from the Deakin software library webpage. 

Research Data Footprints has been tested with Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), Chrome, Opera and Safari. Footprints will not work in Internet Explorer 8 or below.

 If you have issues with accessing Research Data Footprints or installing Mozilla please contact the Service desk.

Yes. Provided you are signed in to the Deakin network either directly or via the VPN. To connect to the Deakin VPN you will need to install the Juniper VPN client on your computer. There are help guides and instructional videos provided by Deakin eSolutions to assist you with this.

For help with connecting to the VPN view the VPN help sheet.

No, you cannot delete a data description.

However, you can keep a draft description without submitting it for publishing, or re-purpose a description you haven't submitted by changing the contents and using it for a different collection.

Published data descriptions can be 'retired' by Liaison or Research Librarians. Retired descriptions are retained within the system, but no longer appear as current records.


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