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Data Analytics

A research guide for the Certificate in Data Analysis and Evaluation Methods program

Data Management Plans

Data management plans allow researchers to better handle the collection, storage, processing, and ultimately sharing of their research data.  An growing number of grants, including grants from the NIH and NSF, are encouraging and requiring applicants to have data management plans as part of their application materials.  Some require researchers to share their raw data for others to use, and of course, this allows you to use other's data as well.

Completing a data management plan before you begin your research can save you time, work, copyright, and legal issues.  A data management plan does not have to be particularly long.  Most data plans are 2-3 pages long.

A data management plan should include:

  • descriptions of the types of data, samples, and collections you will collect
    • Is your data audiovisual, numbers, text, transcripts, tables, pictures, etc?
    • How often will your data change, update, or grow?
    • Is there any privacy or security requirements/liabilities with sharing the data?
    • Who in your research group is responsible for data management?  Who controls the data?
  • the standards and metadata you will use to encode and describe your data
    • How are your documenting how the data was collected?
    • What file format will the data be saved as?  Are these formats widely used by a variety of programs or proprietary to one?
    • Do you need special programs to view, process, or visualize the data?
    • What is the standard schema or metadata standard for your field?
    • What file naming convention will you use?
  • policies for sharing and re-using your data
    • Who controls the data from your research?
    • What are your university's requirements/limitations on sharing data?
    • What is the grant's requirements/limitations on sharing data?
    • What is the journal's requirements/limitations on sharing data?  Does the journal itself publish data, openly or for subscribers only?
    • If you are using data from another source, does it place a requirement on you to share your results?
    • How do you want people to be able to use your data?  Can they base their studies and articles on it?
    • What repositories will you share this data on?
  • methods for archiving and preserving your data for future use
    • What are your strategies for storing/backing up the data?
    • How much data is there and how often will it need to be updated?
    • How long should it be preserved?
    • Where will the data and/or your study results be published?

Data Management Requirements

Different funding agencies, academic institutions, and disciplines have different requirements for their data management plans.

The National Science Foundation expects grantees to release their primary data, samples, and other collections within a reasonable time (AAG Chapter VI.D.4). Researcher should follow explicit requirements for their data management plans, often a mandatory part of their grant's supplementary documentation.

The National Institutes of Health have their own Data Sharing Policy and Implementation Guide.

The ICPSR has its own framework for Data Management Plans.

Other agencies include: