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Managing Research Data for Public Access: 3. After Research Concludes

After Research Concludes

As your research concludes, follow the steps outlined in your data management plan for archiving your research data. Create a data package that includes a data dictionary and a metadata file describing your data and connecting it to your final report. 

  • Step 1: Package the data.
  • Step 2: Submit the data to a repository.
  • Step 3: Link the data and the final report.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Package the Data

As your research concludes, package and archive your research data as outlined in your data management plan.

Data Packages

The data repository where you've chosen to archive your research data may have specific rules for what should be included in a data package. A data package submitted to the National Transportation LIbrary's (NTL's) ROSA P database should include the following elements:

  • The data set.
  • The original report for which the data was collected (PDF or web link).
  • A human-readable Readme.txt file that includes:
    • data dictionary.
    • Notes on standards used.
    • Definitions of the meaning of zeroes, nulls and blank fields.
  • A machine-readable metadata file (XML or JSON format) in a published standard. (U.S. DOT uses Project Open Data Metadata Schema.) 
  • A human-readable data management plan. See Creating Data Management Plans (DMPs) for guidance.
  • Any supporting files, tables, etc.
  • Codes or scripts used in data analysis.

NTL provides templates for these items upon request. 

For more information: 


Metadata describe your data so that others can understand what your data set represents; they are thought of as "data about the data" or the "who, what, where, when and why" of the data. Metadata documentation can be in the form of a document or a formatted list of descriptors that includes keywords, spatial and temporal extent, investigators, and other information about the data set. Metadata should be written from the standpoint of someone reading it who is unfamiliar with your project, methods, or observations. What does a user 20 years into the future need to know to use your data properly?

As with data, associated documentation should be saved using stable, nonproprietary formats. Images, figures and pictures should be individual GIF or JPEG files. Documents should be in separate PDF or PS files identified in the data file. Names of documentation files should be similar to the name of the data set and the data file(s). The documentation is most useful when structured as a user's guide for the data product. Documentation can never be too complete. Users who are not familiar with your data will need more detailed documentation to understand your data set. Long-term experimental activities require more documentation because personnel change over time.


Metadata Requirements in the U.S. DOT Public Access Plan

U.S. DOT uses Project Open Data Metadata Schema v1.1. Use of other metadata standards is addressed by the NTL in its Public Access Plan FAQs, adapted below:

Is Project Open Data Metadata Schema v1.1 the only metadata schema that can be used in order to be compliant with the plan?

The metadata requirement in the plan is for study-level data. DOT recognizes that there are sector-specific metadata standards for differing fields of research or data. Researchers may use standards other than the Project Open Data Metadata Schema v1.1 provided that the chosen metadata standard can supply and be mapped to the data elements required by Project Open Data Metadata Schema v1.1. Project Open Data provides resources to facilitate such crosswalks (see the Field Mappings table) and encourages the development of additional crosswalks as needed by offering the opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge. Additional guidance on DMPs is located on the Creating Data Management Plans (DMPs) page.

Learn more:

Sources: National Transportation Library, USGS.

Step 2: Submit the Data to a Repository

Data repositories are managed digital environments that specialize in collecting, describing, sharing and tracking research data. They use special software, metadata, workflows and networks to keep data accessible, safe and secure. Data repositories also help guarantee authenticity by providing control mechanisms and change logs. For these reasons, repositories are ideal for research data sharing, distribution and preservation.

Data repositories often have limits and restrictions governing which data they accept. Most have rules covering data formats and size limits, and require that data be documented. 

Researchers have many options in choosing data repositories, including general repositories and those specific to a certain institution or academic discipline. See the following resources:

Choosing a Repository

Submitting Your Data

Sources: Iowa State University LibrariesNational Transportation Library

Step 3: Link the Data and Report

There are several ways to connect your data set to your final report so that other researchers can easily locate both elements of your research. As you finalize your research project, incorporate these steps (see NTL's How to Comply page for a full checklist):

  1. In TRB's Research in Progress (RiP) database, change the status of the project from "Active" to "Completed" within two months of completion and retrieve the RH Display IDs for each project record.
  2. Package and archive data as outlined in your data management plan.
  3. Include ORCIDs and funding agreement number(s) on the Technical Report documentation page and in any peer-reviewed publication submissions.
  4. Send one email to U.S. DOT Research HubNTL and TRB including the following information:
  • Final report URL(s) or PDFs for any resulting publications.
  • URL(s) and associated descriptive metadata for any final datasets and the arising from the research project.
  • The funding agreement number of the project.
  • The RH Display ID for the project.
  • ORCIDs (unique researcher IDs) for all publication author(s).
  • Any documented project outputs or outcomes resulting from the research project.

Final reports and data set URLs will be appended to your project records in the U.S. DOT Research Hub, thus providing a single location from which the public can access your research products.

Source: National Transportation Library.

Additional Resources