Using Google Drive to manage research data
Google Drive can be used by groups for creating , editing, and sharing data files, documents, and other digital objects. To be an effective steward of your data in this collaborative environment:
Use your UW Google Apps Drive area to protect your intellectual property
UW-Madison and Google have an agreement that protects your intellectual property in the UW Google Apps area of Google Drive, i.e. the area you access using your NetID/password. This agreement does NOT extend to your private Google Drive, which you access using your Gmail account. It also does not extend to collaborators from outside the UW-Madison.
Have a schema for organizing folders
Links between Google docs aren’t preserved as relative links when you export the files like they are when you export Wiki pages. Therefore, collaborators should agree on a folder hierarchy structure so that all parties know where everything goes and related files/docs can be tied together by their folder location.
Maintain separate private and sharing areas
If you are the owner of a Google Drive used for collaboration, keep any private files you also store there separate from the files the group sees. One way to do this is to set up separate folders for shared and private at the top level of your folder structure and ensure that files always go in the appropriate area.
Maintain your own copies of files shared with you in Google Drive
Each UW Google Drive space is connected to an individual. If that individual leaves the UW, their account will be de-activated and all collaborators will lose access to the Google Drive space. For that reason, all collaborators should keep their own copies of shared files.
You can track version information, including person, date, time, etc., of both Google docs (.gdoc, .gsheet, etc.) and other file types in Google Drive. For a Google doc, you can step through revision changes by using “See revision history.” For a non-Google doc, use “Manage revisions” to see and download current and past versions. There are a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of version tracking:
Revision history is lost when you export
Time-stamp and author information are not retained outside of Google Drive. If you will be exporting your files to archive them elsewhere and version information needs to be preserved, use another versioning method, such as file-naming conventions for files while you are working with them in Google Drive.
Watch out for auto-delete
By default, Google Drive deletes older versions of non-Google docs files after 30 days or 100 revisions, unless you specify that a revision should not be auto-deleted. If you need to keep older versions but don’t want them using your space on Google Drive, you’ll need to download the files and store them elsewhere.
Beware of the potential for version divergence with “Export to Google”
When you use “Export to Google Docs,” you convert a file to a Google docs version that you can edit directly in Google Drive. Google Drive saves that new file under the same name as the original. However, any edits to this new file, won’t be made to the original file or tracked in its revision history. This has the potential to create a new lineage of the file, which could lead to confusion if version information is important.
It is always a good idea to keep multiple copies of your data in several secure places and in formats that will be usable over a long period. Google Drive has many options for exporting files and folders and for converting Google docs to more sustainable formats (such as PDF, OpenOffice, etc.) for long-term archiving elsewhere. But, will exporting preserve everything you need?
Comments are not included all types of exports
If the comments your group has created in Google docs are important documentation of your research workflow that you will want to preserve, you can preserve them if you export as a Word document. Other types of export formats don’t preserve the comments, however.
Version and revision information are not exported
See the discussion about versioning above.
Formulas in spreadsheets are retained in some export formats
Exporting Google spreadsheets in Excel or OpenOffice formats will preserve formulas; exporting as .csv will not.