Data Management Skillbuilding Hub

Best Practice: Separate data values from annotations


Best Practices by Data Life Cycle

Separate data values from annotations

Data Life Cycle stage(s): Describe

A separate column should be used for data qualifiers, descriptions, and flags, otherwise there is the potential for problems to develop during analyses. Potential entries in the descriptor column:

  • Potential sources of error
  • Missing value justification (e.g. sensor off line, human error, data rejected outside of range, data not recorded
  • Flags for values outside of expected range, questionable etc.

Description Rationale

Mixing numeric and textual data in one column will cause problems with analysis. Sometimes it is necessary to have both, the value and a qualifier.



Cite this best practice:

DataONE Best Practices Working Group, DataONE  (September 01, 2011) "Best Practice: Separate data values from annotations". Accessed through the Data Management Skillbuilding Hub at on Aug 22, 2019


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