Backup is key

Unsichtbares Akkordeon


Because they had forgotten their key they had to go through another year of “physical” hardships.



A team of students and academics worked on a big physics study for over a year, involving complex videos taken of micron-sized patterns, which was a very long and time-consuming process. Throughout the year, they gathered several terabytes of video. The videos were labelled systematically and the experimental info stored in a Excel file. Without this Excel file all the data is essentially meaningless for analysis. Regular and multiple backups of the video files were made, a process which took a long long time with all that data. Backing up the key file, however, was not given any thought.

The graduate student in charge of the file cleaned up his computer and somehow managed to delete the file, rendering the whole years´ work meaningless. Attempts at recovery failed and the research was set back by over a year.

The story shows that a Data Management Plan makes sense right from the start. It identifies both the amount of data to be backed up and their relevance in the research process. Therefore, the DMP (hopefully) prevents central files from being overlooked during backup because they have a relatively small volume compared to others, making their backup seem comparatively trivial.


Source: personal communication


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