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Data Management: Data Management Plans

Supplemental information for those who wish to know more about writing and implementing data management plans

Data Management Plans

A data management plan is a document describing analog or digital data as well as other materials (e.g. publications, recorded presentations) that have been or will be gathered in a study or project. It often includes details about how these materials will be organized, preserved, and shared and which procedures are needed to access and use them.

Data management plans may be very simple and include a few sentences about the files being created in the course of research. Other plans may be more complex; it depends on the research and what is involved in it.

Data plans can help you:

  • Comply with the federal agencies' proposal requirements
  • Describe how data will be maintained and what resources will be needed to preserve it
  • Have well-described and organized data when posting a supplemental dataset with your publication
  • Prepare data for review before and/or after the article is accepted for publication, as required by some publishers, e.g. Nature and Science
  • Facilitate re-use of data sets, open access, and data sharing

Funding Agency Requirements

In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the sharing of and access to scientific research data, especially from projects receiving federal funding. The NIH adopted a data sharing policy in 2013, stating that "data should be made as widely and freely available as possible while safeguarding the privacy of participants, and protecting confidential and proprietary data" (NIH, 2003). In 2011, NSF began requiring that data management plans be submitted with all grant proposals. Then in February 2013, the Office of Science and Technology Policy--an office of the Executive Office of the President--released a memo stating the Administration's intent to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research (OSTP, 2013). This memo directed all federal agencies awarding over $100 million in research grants annually " to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government."

As more funding agencies begin to require data management and sharing plans, it is important to remember that every granting agency has slightly different requirements. Requirements for several of the agencies are provided in the table below.

Agency Requirement Details
NSF Requires a 2 page (max.) data plan with all proposals Data Management Plan*
NIH Requires a paragraph following the Research Plan section of the proposal that describes how data will be shared Data Sharing Plan
NASA Requires a data sharing plan as part of the Scientific/Technical/Management section of proposals Guidebook for Proposers
NIJ Requires a 1-2 page data archiving strategy Guidelines and examples
NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grants require a 2 page (max.) sustainability and data management plan Guidelines


In addition, different agency departments and individual proposal solicitations may provide additional information/guidelines for data management plans. This is especially true for NSF grant proposals. Be sure to carefully review program solicitations or individual NSF Division and Directorate web pages for additional information.

*Requirements by Directorate, Office, Division, Program, or other NSF Unit are provided here.


Data Management Checklist

Managing your data before you begin your research and throughout its life cycle is essential to ensure its current usability and long-term preservation and access. You can begin the planning process by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What type of data are being produced and what are the file formats?
  2. How much data are being produced, and at what growth rate? Will the data change?
  3. How long should the data be retained?
  4. What directory and file naming conventions will be used?
  5. Do you need data identifiers?
  6. Are there tools and software needed to render the data?
  7. Who controls the data?
  8. Who will be responsible for data management?
  9. Are there privacy, legal, ethical, or security requirements?
  10. Does the funder require a data sharing policy, data management plan, or other information?
  11. Are the data properly described (metadata) and the overall project documented?
  12. How will you store and back up the data?
  13. Do you need to publish the data in a repository?

Data Management Plan Resources

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