Research data is any data created during research that can be stored on a computer. This includes field notes, analog recordings, and non-digital images, as they can be converted to digital images. Physical data such as biological specimens, soil samples etc. are not considered research data.
Research data can additionally include:
ANDS has intentionally left the definition of research data open so as to be as inclusive as possible. Research Data Australia accepts records of data that are considered to be important to the Australian research community, rather than to an established definition of what constitutes research data.
Generally speaking, however, ANDS does not encourage information concerning journal articles and monographs. This is because they are generally well-described elsewhere and available either through commercial publishers or via open access. ANDS is, however, keenly interested in these as ‘related information’ for research data.
The ANDS business plan says, ‘Research publications are not included within the scope of ANDS but files, images, tables, databases, models, computer outputs, and similar digital representations are included’.
Even within this example, if a collection of text can be used as input to research (for text mining, information retrieval, etc) then it is definitely in scope for Research Data Australia. Similarly, there may be instances where published print material has been integrated into a collection of unpublished items, is integral to the understanding of other collection materials or is part of a collection where significant value has been added to the collection through markup and hyperlinks. In these cases, these would be accepted into Research Data Australia.
The word data can cause some confusion.
It can be argued that data is the supporting material for research output. An artwork is the output itself, in the same way a performance is the output of a music scholar. With this definition in mind, an artwork or performance would not be data but rather a primary scholarly output. It is not the same thing as a series of images of buildings or architecture, in which case, the images are data, i.e. materials that supports research.
The issue of disciplinary differences is likely to feature strongly in this debate – what is one person’s data might be another’s primary output.