How to Prepare a Data Management Plan

These resources have been developed and compiled to provide support for Canadian researchers in developing data management plans.  The information found here has been taken from international examples of best practices.

What is a data management plan (DMP)?  A Data Management Plan describes the data and metadata gathered through a research project.  It includes information about the data files, plans for data storage, and rules for sharing data.

Why prepare a data management plan?  A growing number of funding agencies around the world require that researchers include a data management plan as part of their proposal.  It is expected that Canada’s three major national funding councils (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC) will also be introducing requirements for DMPs in the near future.

Even in the absence of funding agency or institutional requirements for data management plans, researchers should consider creating a DMP for their research projects.  Writing a DMP can help organize the research process and provide consistent guidelines for handling data, making the research process more efficient.  As noted by Chuck Humphrey, Data Library Coordinator at the University of Alberta, “On the surface, data management plans appear to be a very straightforward policy tool…  However, the purposes they fulfill and the processes they embody will enrich the production and custodial care of research data.”

Typical Requirements for DMPs

Individual funding agencies may have different or additional requirements, and varying levels of detail will be required for each of these areas depending on the type of study being conducted.  In general, a data management plan will include the elements documented below.  More detailed guidance can be found by following the links in each section.

  1. Types of data that will be produced or collected
  2. Standards (data formats and metadata) and tools
  3. Access and sharing plans for data
  4. Provisions for privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements
  5. Archiving and preservation plans for data

Some sample DMPs can be found here and here.

Links to data management planning tools

There are a number of tools that have been developed to assist researchers with developing data management plans.  These tools aim to assist researchers and institutions to create DMPs that meet funders’ requirements.  The tools contain templates for the different funding agency requirements.

Canada

  • On July 11 2014, the University of Alberta launched the DMP Builder: A Web-based Tool to Help Prepare Data Management Plans.  The tool is a free service and can be used by anyone, even people not affiliated with University of Alberta. Project ARC aims to provide access a similar tool that will have national branding.

International

  • Canadian researchers applying for grants from US funding agencies with DMP requirements may use the DMPTool, which was developed by the California Digital Library and other collaborators to help researchers create data management plans tailored to specific US funding agency DMP requirements.  The DMPTool provides detailed guidance and links to general and institutional resources and walks a researcher through the process of generating a comprehensive plan.
  • Canadian researchers applying for grants with DMP requirements in the UK can use the DMPonline to fulfill UK funding agency requirements. The tool was developed by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) in the UK in close concert with research funders and universities to produce a tool that assists researchers to produce an effective data management plan (DMP).  The tool contains a number of templates that represent the requirements of different funders and institutions in the UK.

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