Data, from its root is “something given”.1 This makes the following definition both etymologically accurate and practical for the broader purposes of considering the intersection between research data management and libraries:
“Research data means data in the form of facts, observations, images, computer program results, recordings, measurements or experiences on which an argument, theory, test or hypothesis, or another research output is based. Data may be numerical, descriptive, visual or tactile. It may be raw, cleaned or processed, and may be held in any format or media.”2
Research data are those ‘things given’ upon which scholarly arguments are built; they are the foundation of scholarship and research. As the definition indicates, research data may exist in a variety of forms, formats, or states, although the majority of this page will confine itself to the consideration of digital research data. Given this broad definition, it is unsurprising that different research disciplines will develop their own definitions of what is useful research data for that community. This perspective is reflected in the Office of Management & Budget’s definition of research data (§ 200.315 Intangible property. p#286 part e (3))
Research data also includes information about the context in which it was produced. Without this information, research data may be obfuscated, inaccessible, and lack interoperability.
1 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/data Accessed 2014-09-13
2 Queensland University of Technology Management of Research Data Policy, D/2.8.3http://www.mopp.qut.edu.au/D/D_02_08.jsp Accessed 2014-09-13