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Research Data Management Guide

A guide for managing data.

What is a Data Management Plan?

A Data Management Plan (or a DMP) is a document that formally outlines what you plan to do with your data -- both during and after completion of the research project. A DMP will describe the type and formats of data you use, as well as how this data will be collected, organized, and stored. If you are using sensitive or personal data (especially important when conducting human research), you will also need to detail how you will ensure that personal data is protected and secure. Finally, a DMP will describe how you intend to make your data accessible for other researchers to reuse or build upon; keep in mind that many funding organizations (including the NIH and NSF) require complete DMPs and often have data sharing mandates.

Why Create a Data Management Plan?

  1. You may be required to by your funders. For example, all research funded by US government grants, including from the NIH, the NSF, and others, is required to include a data management plan.
  2. Even if research funding doesn't require you to create a data management plan, creating one will help you to quickly navigate your data, both now and into the future. This will save you time having to sift through poorly named and organized files. If you look back at this data 6 months, 1 year, 3 years from now, would it make sense to you? Would you be able to quickly find the files you need? If you share your data with another researcher, would they be able to understand how to navigate the data? Creating a data management plan will ensure that you don't lose time trying to find a particular data set or file in the future.

Am I Required to Share My Data?

Many research grants require investigators to make their data available to other researchers. Regardless of funding requirements, you will need to retain, share, and make accessible any data that validates your research findings. If you are unable to provide the data to back up your research findings, your research may be called into question.

In addition to allowing others to verify your findings, you may also want to make your data accessible if it is has long-term value, or if the data collection would be difficult to replicate. Making your data accessible will enhance future studies in the field, and sharing of research data is highly encouraged.

Writing a Data Management Plan (DMP)

Before you get started on creating a Data Management Plan, make sure to review any requirements from the funding agency. There may be specific questions that they need answered, and you'll want to make sure you address all of their requirements as concisely as possible. Once you are ready to get started, we suggest using the DMPTool to build your data management plan.

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