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One of the pitfalls that complicates data sharing is confusing terminology. This month, we are defining two commonly used terms and their meaning as they are used in research data management. 

⚠ Be aware that people use these terms differently depending on their field.

 
 
Term Used as Verb Used as Noun

Back up 

  • To make copies of data files (SAA).
  • The purpose is to save a copy of data in case the original data is deleted or damaged. 
  • Data should be backed up on a regular schedule.  
  • A copy of data in a separate location from the original data (SAA).
  • Used as a short-term data recovery solution in case of corruption or loss. 
  • When used as a noun, "back up" becomes the single word "backup".
Archive
  • To transfer material to a facility that appraises, preserves, and provides access on a permanent or long-term basis (Cornell).
  • A location where materials are stored, preserved, and possibly redistributed to individuals interested in using the materials.
  • Archival science uses the plural noun form "archives".

Considerations when using these terms:

  • Be clear and use correct terminology in your data management plan (DMP). 
  • Ask clarifying questions when working with data or using data terminology. 
  • Understand your back up routine for your data -- backup schedule, length of retention, etc. 
  • Responsible data management involves both archiving and backing up. 

March 2021

 
   
 

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