Data Management Plans

About Data Management Plans

A data management plan is a required element of most research grant proposals. The plan outlines the types of data associated with the research project and describes how the data will be collected, processed, and protected during the project and how the data will be archived, described, and, when appropriate, made available to other researchers after the project’s completion.

Data management planning is necessary to comply with ethical and legal requirements to protect the privacy of subjects, protect intellectual property, and maintain a permanent record of the data that supports your research findings.

Researchers writing data management plans should consider funding agency policies, legal and ethical requirements, backup, storage, and formatting issues for long-term preservation, and metadata standards that can make research data easier to find, use and preserve.

Data management plans usually include these elements:

  1. Types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced
  2. Description and methodology of how the data will be collected
  3. Standards that would be applied for formatting and describing data (i.e., metadata)
  4. Backup and storage procedures
  5. Policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements
  6. Plans for transition of the data collection after project is complete
  7. Provisions for archiving and preservation (e.g., inclusion in a data repository)
  8. Access policies and provisions for secondary uses

Federal agency requirements for data management plans

NSF Science Foundation (NSF) Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results: The NSF requires a data management plan with every proposal, and the plans are evaluated as part of the grant proposal review process. The NSF requires investigators to, among other things, facilitate the sharing of data that results from work supported by NSF grants at no more than incremental costs within a reasonable time, though the policy does allow for the protection of sensitive data and information of potential commercial value. More information about this policy can be found in the 2017 Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide.

The Tufts University Libraries provide data management research guides that provide agency-by-agency summaries of data management requirements.

Example plans and plan-writing tools

Sample National Science Foundation (NSF) data management plans from DataONE
Five sample NSF data management plans, and data management best practices for general and citizen science projects, from DataONE, a major environmental sciences project funded by the NSF.

Sample National Science Foundation (NSF) data management plans from UC San Diego
These plans are provided by the University of California, San Diego's Research Cyberinfrastructure office.

Data Management Plan Tool (DMPTool) and Examples
The DMPTool (free registration required) walks users through the process of creating ready-to-use data management plans for seven federal funding agencies (DOE, IES, IMLS, NIH, NEH, NSF, USGS). The site also offers numerous downloadable example plans for several agencies.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) data sharing guidance and example plans
Selected NIH policies and related guidance on sharing of research resources developed with NIH funding, including example data sharing plans.

Who to Contact

Grants Resources & Services: provides guidance on data management plan requirements in funding notices; hosts a library of sample data management
plans and plan writing tools (see above); and reviews data management plans. Request a sample data management plan from a specific agency by emailing with your name, the agency name, and the specific program you are applying to.

Research Data Analysis: provides guidance for the collection, editing, verification, and management, and analysis of data from ongoing research projects using a variety of software packages.

ITS Research Services: provides a single point of contact for researchers with IT needs including database development and hosting, virtual environments, data storage and backup, and high performance computing.

Library-Digital Scholarship & Initiatives: provides and sustains innovative digital tools and publishing platforms for content, delivery, discovery, analysis, data curation, and preservation.

Not sure who to start with? Email with any questions.