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Data Management and Sharing: Data Management Plans

Information for those who wish to know more about writing and implementing plans for data management and sharing

Data Management Plans

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

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.

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 data set 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, Science, Ecological Society of America)
  • Facilitate open data sharing and data re-use.

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 addressing 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?

Funding Agency Requirements

There is 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 required that data management plans be submitted with grant proposals. In February 2013, the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) 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." The NIH announced its policy for data management and sharing in October 2020, effective January 2023. And the OSTP (2022) recommends that "federal agencies...update their public access policies as soon as possible, and no later than December 31st, 2025, to make publications and their supporting data resulting from federally funded research publicly accessible without an embargo on their free and public release" [emphasis OSTP].

It is important to remember that every granting agency has slightly different requirements.

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.

Data Management Plan Resources

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