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Research Data Management in Archaeology

Doing research in archaeology is more than just gathering data and publishing a paper. Nowadays, there is a growing trend in producing well-defined and responsible data management plans. They help to navigate the process and result in good data management practices which in return benefit the researchers themselves as well as the scientific community as a whole.

Research data management (RDM) is nothing more than the effective handling of any information that is gathered and created during research for analysis purposes and to generate or validate scientific claims. That information is referred to as research data. Incidental or administrative data are not a part of the research data, so research data management practices do not apply to them.

Thinking about the best way to apply research data management practices might seem like a lot of extra work during the research, but if approached in a timely fashion it is beneficial both to the scientific community and to you as a researcher in a long run.

Beneficial to the scientific community

Boosts the research integrity

  • Transparency.
  • Makes replication possible.
  • Avoid accusations of “bad science”.

Beneficial to you, the researcher

  • Reduces the risk of loss of your data.
  • Organizing well your data early makes it easier to write papers later.
  • Helps with a peer review.
  • Allows continuity of your work.
  • Good for your reputation.
  • Increases impact and collaboration.

To avoid last-minute panic and to increase the quality of the final product, the best way to approach research data management is to complete the tasks step-by-step. The most convenient way to organize them is by three stages universal to all research projects: before, during, and after the research. Each of them comes with a specific set of challenges and tasks which are here described in more detail:

1. Before the research

Application process

  • Make sure you are familiar with the regulatory context you are working in.
  • If your research is carried out as part of a larger project, familiarize yourself with those demands as well.
  • Familiarize yourself with standard RDM practices and think about the way you can make your research compliant with them.
  • Fill out Data Management questions on the submission form, accessible via the project funder.
  • Always fill out the DPIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment) form.
  • The information you submit may be rough and preliminary, and that is expected at this stage.
  • Consult the Data Steward about your draft. Do this well in advance of the submission date, so you have enough time to assess/incorporate their feedback.
  • Submit the application.


  • Write your Data Management Plan (DMP) at the latest two months after starting the research project. Writing your research DMP is mandatory!
  • To write your DMP, you can either attend one of the workshops dedicated to writing DMP or contact the Data Steward. Use the template provided by your funding agency, or else use the Leiden University template. To further help you with writing your DMP, you can consult the archaeology-specific template filled in with examples you might find useful.
  • In this stage, provide a more detailed description of your plans and activities: who is going to do what, when/how often, etc.
  • Plan (coarsely) which part of your dataset to archive. Which data are eligible for reuse, and which are not?

2. During the research

It is simple, you must keep your promises! At all times, data must be securely preserved, however not yet deposited. If applicable, deposit the temporary dataset at the contract end.

Executing the plan

  • Most importantly: keep your promises as much as possible! Your DMP is like a contract.
  • Make sure the activities in your DMP (backups…) are properly carried out.
  • Your DMP is a living document. Periodically review your DMP itself, to see if it still applies, or needs to be updated.
  • Be aware of where personal data are stored, who has access to it, and whether they are anonymized/or pseudonymized in the promised way. Report data leaks. -> Themes / Sensitive and Personal Data
  • If you have a finalized version of data for a sub-project, set the files aside, and already start documenting them.
  • Keep your supervisor in the loop. He/she is responsible for your actions and possible consequences.
  • If you work within a larger research project that will take care of your data deposition, inform the Data Steward about it!

Sharing and storing

1. Communication

  • SURFfilesender
  • EduVPN

2. Network storage

  • Workgroups („J-Drive”)
  • Bulk storage

3. Cloud storage

  • SURFdrive
  • OneDrive
  • Research Drive

Preparing for deposit

During the final phase of the project, you will be busy analyzing the, already finalized, data and writing. You can make a start selecting and documenting the data to be archived.

  • Well before your contract ends, make agreements with your supervisor about which part of your dataset you are archiving.
  • Do a final review of your DMP: which versions of the files did you plan to archive/make available? Is this still applicable? If not, change the DMP or adjust your activities.
  • Make decisions about access rights. Which data are restricted for privacy reasons, copyrights, database rights, etc.? Do you set an embargo, for how long, and why? Which data are restricted for privacy reasons, copyrights, database rights, etc.? 
  • The embargo period for DANS Easy: 2 years. It can be extended.
  • Please do not use the CC0 waiver. It will allow others to use your data without citation, which violates proper research practice. Recommended: CC BY 4.0
  • Contact the Data Steward or Information Manager at the Faculty of Archaeology, LU, or CDS (Centre for Digital Scholarship), LU, if you need any further assistance with depositing your data.
  • Select which files contain the data to be archived. Criteria to take into account are described in -> Themes / Selection
  • Review the metadata you added to the files. Is this enough for a researcher outside your project. If there are any questions, get in touch with the Data Steward. -> Themes / Metadata

Always keep in mind a fellow researcher!

Metadata exists on three levels:

  1. On a project level: The whole research and context.
  2. On a file level: Included in the files.
  3. On the level of variables and codes: Recorded in a codebook.

3. After research

These are the final stages of your plan. If you have followed the plan and guidelines up until now, it will be much easier for you to finalize everything in time. Keep in mind that the research data should be deposited before the defense date.


Archaeologists in the Netherlands are formally obliged to archive their data since 2007!

  • Deposit your dataset in the trusted digital repository (e.g. the Data Station archive of KNAW/DANS, according to the metadata standards for eDNA). The repository must be trustworthy because besides storing and managing data, it needs to provide reliable and long-term access to digital resources.
  • Make sure to link the dataset to the relevant publication(s) using a globally unique and persistent identifier (DOI).
  • We also encourage you to sign up for ORCID to ensure that all your present and future research output, such as articles and datasets, will be linked together.
  • Leiden University uses LUCRIS to register scholarly publications. Here, publications can be linked to the relevant data through a DOI. This DOI should also be added to the publication.
  • Send the persistent identifier to the Data Steward, so that it can be recorded that you have fulfilled your obligations when it comes to the Faculty's RDM regulations.
  • Include your Data Management Plan in a separate folder as well. The DMP has to be archived longer than the data itself.

Finishing your research

  • In case of personal or sensitive data, delete identifying information after the retention period.
  1. Plan well in advance and stick to your plans.
  2. Make your data FAIR.
  3. Comply with the university and funder policies as well as codes of conduct and laws.
  4. Comply with the GDPR and handle both personal and sensitive data with care.

Make sure you are familiar with the legal and regulatory situation in the country you travel to, especially for personal and sensitive data.

Think about these issues as well:

  • How to access your data during fieldwork? Synchronize with the Surf Research Drive of your project.  You can also use Surfdrive or the university-provided OneDrive.
  • If this is not possible, think clearly about how to transport them. Is the data safe during transport? What is the procedure after coming back from the fieldwork?
  • If you change files during fieldwork, how do you maintain version control, preventing people at home to change the same file? Make sure to have a system in place to avoid any confusion.
  • How to get data from proprietary devices like TS or GPS equipment? Usually, these devices store data in proprietary formats only accessible from the device or specific software.
  • In your backup strategy take into account you will probably be working outside or in an unclean environment, which increases the risk of equipment breaking down.
  • Create a proper strategy on how to incorporate the newly gathered data into datasets you need for analysis.
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