File formats

Research data exist in wide variety of file formats. However, it only makes sense to preserve and publish research data in a format which allows reuse, even in the long term and by third parties. You should think about suitable data formats and the required software archiving already at the beginning of your project and allow time and funds for any conversion work that may be needed. A data management plan can help you do that.

The FAIR principles will play an important role in choosing file formats. Furthermore, you must determine whether facilitating reuse or archiving long-term is the primary objective for all data on a case-by-case basis.

In general, you should consider the following guidelines when choosing your file formats:

  • Choose formats that are established in your community.
  • If possible, use open formats with unrestricted access to documentation so that appropriate processing software can be developed if needed.
  • Choose formats that can be read by multiple software products, because it is more likely that these formats will continue to be supported in the future.
  • Choose formats that are not subject to legal or technical restrictions.

For example, the ETH Library in Zurich provides an overview of formats suitable for long-term storage in their Digital Data Curation wiki.