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Data Management: Make a Data Management Plan

Data Management Plans

As you apply for grant funding to supplement or start a new research project, read the application requirements carefully; you may be required to submit a Data Management Plan. This additional document—typically two pages or fewer—gives grant reviewers an understanding of how researchers plan to make the fruits of their project last as long as possible.

If you need assistance in drafting a data management plan, contact the library.

The following resources are sample plans developed in accordance with NSF guidelines, as well as the plans from projects which received funding:

DMP Planning

Data management plans do not typically take very much time, but there are many issues to consider. Below are a list of issues to consider as you begin to develop your DMP

Starting Data Collection

Before beginning a new project, researchers should confront four key questions on data management. When you are ready to apply for research funding, you may be asked to answer these questions more formally in a Data Management Plan (more information on written plans for funding applications is found in the Grant Planning section of this guide). However, even if you are not currently planning on applying for funding, these questions can still guide you through the process of maintaining readable data.

This section describes four considerations to take before beginning a research project.

Other guides to data management planning:

Data Types

First, plan for what kind of data you believe your project will generate. Data can take the form of numbers, tables, text, images, and audio or video recording; it may also be code and algorithms, or outputs from a particular kind of instrument. The kind of data you collect will affect what your management strategy will be.

What to consider:

  • What will your data show?
  • How will it be generated, collected, or aggregated?
  • In what final formats and file types will it appear?  

Describing Data

Both during and after the research process, you will need to keep detailed descriptions of your datasets, particularly if your research team is large or the project will last for a long period of time. This will involve the creation of “metadata”, or other information that provides background to your data. Necessary metadata includes the names of creators, key dates, methodologies, and other information.

What to consider:

  • What metadata will you include with your data?
  • What other documentation and notes will you use to help you interpret the data in the future?
  • If you plan to submit your data to a repository in the future, what kind of metadata does that repository require?

More on metadata:

Sharing Your Data

Under the terms of some grant awards—including the NSF and NIH—and journals, researchers are required to share their data publicly. However, many scholarly communities support data sharing across all disciplines, both to further the use of limited resources and to raise the profile of research. For more information on data sharing, see the Data Sharing section further in this guide.

What to consider:

  • Through what venue will this be shared?  
  • What rights will other researchers have to re-use the data?
  • What information must be removed to ensure privacy of research subjects?

Data Storage

Many grant awards stipulate that data from a project must be stored securely long-term, but researchers should regardless plan to keep their data in a secure location, in the event that it must be retrieved in the future. Consider where you might be able to store this data after the project ends, the most ideal format for long-term usability, and who will be responsible for overseeing this process.

What to consider:

  • Where, other than your own personal computer, can you store your data indefinitely?
  • Which data files must be converted to stable file formats?

DMP Tool

UIC scholars are encouraged to make use of DMPTool, a program which guides researchers through each step of creating a compliant data management plan.

Begin by selecting UIC on the DMPTool institution page, and log in with your NetID. The video below introduces the use of this tool.