Starting the archival process before data collection phase can only assist both the data collector and the ultimate secondary user. Plans for sharing and/or archiving should be thought through while the researcher is at the stage of devising and outlining the actual data collection exercise.
Many data collection funding bodies and sponsors require information on data sharing and dissemination plans, and some institutions and research bodies incorporate some if not all of these principles in their own internal operating procedures. The data archive or service can assist in the design and implementation of a data management plan and is often willing to play a continuous advisory role for researchers throughout the data collection and research phase.
Thinking ahead during this early phase of the project permits the data collector to take into account important issues from the very beginning, which can simplify the process and avert problems later on at the data deposit stage. The following, at a minimum, should be considered:
- Schedule for data sharing (for example, how soon after collection will data access be granted)
- Format of final dataset (including, for example, whether anonymisation will be necessary)
- Documentation to be provided (for example, what information should be collected and maintained during the data collection and analysis phases, or what format will be used for distribution of the documentation)
- Analytical tools to be provided, if any
- Need for data sharing agreement
- Mode of data sharing (for example, through a data archive or service, with or without special conditions)
Additional considerations might be:
- Is it necessary to carry out a preliminary review of existing datasets to determine whether new data are needed and/or will one be produced?
- Are there any problems related to data sharing: confidentiality, consent, copyright or otherwise (see sections on IP Rights, Confidentiality and Research Ethics?
- Who are the potential users of the dataset?
- What are the costs of preparing data and documentation for archiving and who will pay them?
- Are there any alternative archiving options?