Choosing what to keep

It is tempting to keep everything, just in case you need it in the future, but keeping all your files for the foreseeable future costs money, and makes it more difficult to find the truly important things.

What does selection involve?

Choosing what to keep and what can be disposed of or deleted is always going to involve a subjective judgement, as nobody knows exactly what information is going to be wanted in the future. 

All we can do is think the matter through carefully, abide by the policies we need to (e.g. from funders) and document decisions made and the reasons for them. It will not be a perfect process, but should at least be a sensible one. 

How do I know what to keep and what to delete?

These following questions, based on material devised by the Digital Curation Centre, can help you decide what you should keep and what can be deleted: 

  • does my funder or the university need me to keep this data and / or make it available for a certain amount of time?
  • does this data constitute the 'vital records' of a project, organisation or consortium and therefore need to be retained indefinitely?
  • do I have the legal and intellectual property rights to keep and re-use this data? If not, can these be negotiated?
  • does sufficient documentation and descriptive information (‘metadata’) exist to explain the data, and allow the data or record to be found wherever it ends up being stored?
  • if I need to pay to keep the data, can I afford it?

Once you have sorted through your files and asked these questions you then need to: 

Check your data protection responsibilities.

  • prepare documentation for each file
  • find out how to deposit in a data repository.