Data inventory

Data inventory

Keeping track of data resources

Producing an inventory of data collections created and/or acquired by researchers helps to keep track of data resources held in a centre. It can be used for planning and implementing data management measures throughout the research process.

A research centre, or large project, can develop a data inventory to keep track of all data and related documentation and outputs that are being created, or acquired by various researchers within the centre.

The inventory can record:

  • What the data mean.
  • How they were created.
  • Where they were obtained.
  • Who owns them.
  • Who has access, use and editing rights.
  • Who is responsible for managing them.
  • How they will or can be shared.

It can also be used as a tool to plan data management measures when research starts, and to keep track of management implementation during the research cycle, via a regular update strategy.

The inventory can:

  • Record storage and backup strategies.
  • Keep track of versions.
  • Record data quality control procedures.

Data management can be reviewed annually or alongside research review, such as during project progress meetings.

The inventory facilitates data sharing as it contains all essential information to enable future reuse and to make data archiving easy.

Data inventory templates

We have developed an example data inventory in line with the requirements for data management of the ESRC research data policy, which is structured as a Microsoft Access database.

Available forms in the database can be used to add information on projects, related data collections (or datasets) and particular data and documentation files within data collections. Data management responsibilities can be allocated to named people. The database uses controlled vocabularies for types of data formats. This inventory can be adapted for your own purposes.