Not all research data are digital. Most researchers keep handwritten laboratory notebooks, journals and other materials, examples of which may be surveys, paintings, fossils, minerals and tissue. However, non-digital data can be converted to a digital source in a variety of ways.
Typically, basic research data and related material should be retained for a minimum of 10 years after the study has been completed. Clinical research data should be preserved for at least 20 years after the study has been completed .
Please keep in mind that national legislation or codes of conduct may impose different periods.
Anything stored on paper can be scanned easily. For best results, scan your paper document as an image file, preferably as a TIFF image, or PDF. Using the latter method allows files to be searchable and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a process which allows conversion of text contained in images into editable text files.
If you are scanning sensitive data, we recommend scanning to an encrypted USB drive rather than to your network drive. However, you should transfer the data to a secured network storage space as soon as possible, then store the USB drive securely until you are ready to ask your IT support to perform secure data deletion .
Those who carry out material structure studies, or restoration of museum pieces, often work with real objects - like biological material, fabrics, fossils and paintings. Digital technology allows them to observe these items in several ways.
Cell and tissue specimens may exist as intact structures or may have been sectioned and adhered to glass slides. In the former case, there are numerous methods to 3D scan specimens such as various forms of tomography which can go from sub-nanometer to millimeter resolution. These will typically yield a 3D digital object which can then be virtually sectioned. In many cases, they are also used to discern physical characteristics or experimental signals that would not otherwise be possible. For sections, it is common practice to directly photograph these to create a digital record, and is the same for paintings. Other types of specimens such as fossils and minerals can also be subjected to tomographic imaging methods to produce 3D virtual objects, while in other cases the experimental subject may be very large, such as a building or an entire landscape, in which case there are more expansive methods such as SONAR, RADAR and LIDAR.
If the real world object is not easy to scan, the only remaining option may be to take a digital photograph(s) at the highest resolution possible. The image should be checked to make sure it is of sufficient quality and provides enough detail, and is an accurate reflection of the real world object.