Data Management Plans -- Background Information
Creation of a data management plan is a “best practice” for research projects that involve the collection or dissemination of data. Data management plans help to insure that data collected by a project have the integrity, quality, and provenance needed to support the proposed research; and that data necessary for external replication of research findings will be available to the research community.
In addition, many organizations sponsoring research, including many federal agencies and non-profit foundations, require a formal data management plan. For example:
- The February 2013 OSTP Public Access Memo directed funding agencies with annual R&D budgets of over $100 million to develop a public access plan for disseminating the results of their research. See ICPSR's Guidelines for OSTP Data Access Plan.
- NIH requires a data management plan for all applications requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs per year. See NIH Data Sharing Policy.
- NSF requires a data management plan for all proposals. See NSF Grant Proposal Guide (2013).
- In most instances, NIJ requires data sets resulting from funded research to be archived with the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD). See NIJ’s Applying for Data Resources Program Funding.
Data management plans are not one-size-fits-all. An appropriate data management plan should take into consideration, early on in the data life cycle, the size and complexity of the data to be collected or assembled, the likely audience for reuse of the data, sponsor requirements, and general legal and ethical requirements (e.g. that data be shared in a way that preserves the confidentiality of subject information).
The following pages outline recommended elements for consideration in most data management plans. Also included is a template for a data management plan, which is tailored to NSF requirements, and is appropriate for data that is relatively small in size and complexity (such that a separate budget for data processing is not required) and can be disseminated in a form that is not legally or ethically encumbered. The outline and sample plan are based on a comparison of data management checklists produced by funders, prominent data archives, and library associations; a review of sample data management plans from funders and data archiving organizations; and Library of Congress preservation format recommendations.