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The What, Why, and How of Data Management Planning

Ingrid DilloA Blog post by Ingrid Dillo (WDS-SC Vice-chair)

Whether your research is performed in a lab, in the field, or at the office, and with a large or small team, it inevitably involves research information, or data. These data are valuable, and deserve to be properly managed. Over the last few years, the notion that good data management is an important part of scientific practice has increasingly found widespread acceptance.

Data management planning is the structured way of thinking about the research data you are going to collect. What type of research data will the research project produce? What format will you use? How will you store them and how can they be accessed? By thinking about these questions at an early stage and documenting your answers you will avert future problems as a researcher.

One of the ways to think about the data collecting process is by using a format: a Data Management Plan (DMP). These formats come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the research discipline, requirements from the research funder, and local initiatives.

A DMP can be a separate document. It helps the researcher identify and list the risks with regard to management of research data during the entire research process. Because not everything is known from the outset, it is recommended to treat the DMP as a 'living document', which can be revised and detailed periodically.

Research funders nowadays often require that a DMP is included in the project proposal. Typically, the research proposal either contains a data section or a separate DMP is incorporated as an annex. For research funders, the reason behind it is to promote open access to research data: in their opinion, research data produced in the context of a publicly funded research project should be freely made available for reuse and verification. Recent cases of data manipulation and fraud emphasize the importance of access to the original data.

By increasing awareness of research data management across the board—from funders, to researchers, to support staff—we can ensure that research data are handled properly, both in the present and future. More data will be available for reuse, and more data will be reused. In the end, reuse of any form will help contribute to the solutions of today's grand challenges.

More Information on Data Management Planning

  1. In the five-minute video below, Research Data Netherlands, has listed what a DMP is and what its advantages are, and an example is given of a format and a completed DMP.
  2. The Essentials 4 Data Support is an introductory course for those who provide support to researchers in storing, managing, archiving and sharing their research data (data support staff). With this course, Research Data Netherlands aims to contribute to the professional development of, and coordination among, data support staff. The course covers the basic building blocks of the discipline and revolves around online material. Research Data Netherlands has placed the online learning materials at everyone's disposal free of charge, based on the idea of open access and sharing knowledge. You are free to take the online course anytime at your own initiative.
  3. Research Data Management: An overview of recent developments in the Netherlands by Marjan Grootveld (DANS) and Marnix van Berchum (Huygens ING), 2017.