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Data publication: Step 4 - Use the best file format

This guide will give you practical hints and tips to publish your data and ensure that it is findable, accessible, usable and citable. Let's publish data well!

[Accessible] [Interoperable] - File formats

For long-term accessibility of research data, ensure all datasets are saved in an appropriate file format.

Best file formats for publishing data

An appropriate and trustworthy data repository should be selected to enhance the findability of your data, and to ensure it is stored safely and securely. When preserving and publishing data it's essential that all datasets are saved in an appropriate file format to ensure long-term accessibility of data.

The file formats you use when working with your data may not be appropriate for archiving or publishing purposes. You should think about capturing data or converting files into formats that are:

  • widely used within your discipline
  • publicly documented, ie the complete file specification is publicly available
  • open and non-proprietary
  • endorsed by standards agencies such as the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO)
  • self-documenting, ie the file itself can include useful metadata
  • unencrypted
  • uncompressed 

Choose the best file formats for analysis, preservation and publishing. These are suggestions for suitable file format choices for long-term preservation and for working data.


Recommended formats

The following tables provide general suggestions for suitable file format choices for publishing data and long-term preservation. For more specific recommendations, please contact for further advice on which file formats to use for publishing, long-term preservation, as well as when and how your data should be converted into these formats.

Format Category Format(s)
Archive ZIP File Format (.zip)

Broadcast Wave Format (.wav)


Tagged Image File Format (.tif, .tiff)

Tabular Datasets

Comma Separated Values (.csv)

Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)


Plain Text (UTF-8) (.txt)

Portable Document Format (.pdf)*


Motion JPEG 2000 (.mj2)

MPEG-4 (.mp4)

Check the guidance on file formats by the UK Data Services for data sharing, reuse, and preservation.


Sydney Conservatorium of Music Research Data Management Provisions 2015 (see Schedule 4: Preferred file formats for audio visual and other data)


For further assistance in publishing your research data, email us!

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