BOX 1-4

Definitions of “Research Data” from Other Reports

“Data are facts, numbers, letters, and symbols that describe an object, idea, condition, situation, or other factors.”a

“A reinterpretable representation of information in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing. Examples of data include a sequence of bits, a table of numbers, the characters on a page, the recording of sounds made by a person speaking, or a moon rock specimen.”b

“Any information that can be stored in digital form, including text, numbers, images, video or movies, audio, software, algorithms, equations, animations, models, simulations, etc. Such data may be generated by various means including observation, computation, or experiment.”c


a National Research Council. 1999. A Question of Balance: Private Rights and the Public Interest in Scientific and Technical Databases. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, p. 15.


bConsultative Committee for Space Data Systems. 2002. Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, p. 1-9. Available at


c National Science Board. 2005. Long-Lived Data Collections: Enabling Research and Education in the 21st Century. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, p. 13.

The term “data” in this report excludes physical objects (including living organisms) and other materials used in research, such as biological reagents or the devices, instruments, or computers that generate experimental or observational data. In many cases, these physical objects can be described in written, numeric, or visual forms, and these descriptions constitute data. However, because materials are tangible whereas data are generally intangible, different issues surround their use, storage, and dissemination. Some of the observations and conclusions in this report apply to materials as well as to data, and on occasion we make this extension of our conclusions explicit. However, the treatment of materials in research introduces issues that are beyond the subject matter of this report.18

Finally, our definition excludes information that can be important in research but is not used to generate research conclusions, including interpre-


Issues related to sharing research materials in the life sciences have been addressed by a previous National Research Council report. See National Research Council. 2003. Sharing Publication-Related Data and Materials: Responsibilities of Authorship in the Life Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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