Data management planning

Data Management Planning is increasingly being seen as an integral part of the research process, and an expectation, leading to the implementation of good data practices.

What is a data management plan?

"A data management plan is an opportunity to consider and describe, when research is being designed and planned, how the research data are going to be managed throughout the research cycle and shared afterwards"
Economic and Social Data Service

What does a data management plan cover?

“A data management plan is a formal document that outlines how you will handle your data both during your research, and after the project is completed. The goal of a data management plan is to consider the many aspects of data management, metadata generation, data preservation, and analysis before the project begins; this ensure that data are well-managed in the present, and prepared for preservation in the future.”

Data management plans are documents which may be submitted to research funders as an essential part of the bid process, and/or developed iteratively during research. They describe:

  • What data will be created and what existing data will be used
  • Policies which apply to the data
  • Data management practices (short and long term storage, back-up, security and access control etc.)
  • IT facilities and equipment
  • Data ownership and access
  • Defined responsibilities for data and the plan
  • Data preservation, re-use and sharing

Creating a data management plan will mean considering early on what happens to research data throughout the research lifecycle, requiring issues to be considered, problems to be faced, decisions to be made, and preparations to be put in place.

A good data management plan will develop as your research progresses.

UK Data Archive data management checklist

Here is a checklist, developed by the UK Data Archive, that will help you to scope out the issues you need to address if you are to manage your research data effectively.

  • Are you using standardised and consistent procedures to collect, process, check, validate and verify data?
  • Are your structured data self-explanatory in terms of variable names, codes and abbreviations used?
  • Which descriptions and contextual documentation can explain what your data mean, how they were collected and the methods used to create them?
  • How will you label and organise data, records and files?
  • Will you apply consistency in how data are catalogued, transcribed and organised, e.g. standard templates or input forms?
  • Which data formats will you use? Do formats and software enable sharing and long-term validity of data, such as non-proprietary software and software based on open standards?
  • When converting data across formats, do you check that no data or internal metadata have been lost or changed?
  • Are your digital and non-digital data, and any copies, held in a safe and secure location?
  • Do you need to securely store personal or sensitive data?
  • If data are collected with mobile devices, how will you transfer and store the data?
  • If data are held in various places, how will you keep track of versions?
  • Are your files backed up sufficiently and regularly and are back-ups stored safely?
  • Do you know what the master version of your data files is?
  • Do your data contain confidential or sensitive information? If so, have you discussed data sharing with the respondents from whom you collected the data?
  • Are you gaining (written) consent from respondents to share data beyond your research?
  • Do you need to anonymise data, e.g. to remove identifying information or personal data, during research or in preparation for sharing?
  • Have you established who owns the copyright of your data? Might there be joint copyright?
  • Who has access to which data during and after research? Are various access regulations needed?
  • Who is responsible for which part of data management?
  • Do you need extra resources to manage data, such as people, time or hardware?

Data management planning tool

The Digital Curation Centre have created a data management planning checklist (V4) and an on-line planning tool (DMP Online).

This aims to:

  • help create and maintain different versions of Data Management Plans
  • provide useful guidance on data management issues and how to meet research funders' requirements
  • export useful plans in a variety of formats

The DMP Online tool is being developed with the intention to be mapped against the specific requirements of each research funder.

Funders’ data management planning requirements

"Funding bodies increasingly require their grant-holders to produce and maintain Data Management Plans (DMPs), both at the bid-preparation stage and after funding has been secured." DMP online

The Digital Curation Centre provide information about the requirements of a range of funders.

ESRC Data management plan requires information about:
- Existing data
- Information on data
- Quality assurance
- Backup and security
- Ethical issues
- Expected difficulties in data sharing
- Copyright/intellectual property right
- Responsibilities
- Preparation of data for sharing and archiving

The AHRC Technical Appendix

"If a significant product or by-product of your project is the creation of an electronic resource, you must complete the Technical Appendix section for your proposal.

You are strongly advised to obtain appropriate advice and guidance regarding the technical aspects of your project, before submitting a proposal. You should ensure that advice is sought in plenty of time before the final submission date."
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The BBSRC Data Sharing Policy

"To enable data sharing, it is expected that appropriate data management strategies should be in place throughout the research project. Activities involved in preparing a dataset for sharing (particularly via submission to a public resource) should ideally be done within the funding period of the project. If not, knowledge, staff and motivation may be lost and the work may not be carried out to adequate standards."
BBSRC Data Sharing Policy, Version 1.1, June 2010 (pdf)

IT Services Academic Liaison is working with the DCC, providing feedback about DMP Online. Its staff have worked with a number of University researchers to analyse DMP Online, and have created plans to support their research projects.