Summary: A data management plan accompanies the entire research process and does not only support it concerning planning and application, but also regulates processes such as archiving and data publication, which typically extend beyond the end of the project
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Why is a data management plan important?

A data management plan helps to make research data discoverable, accessible and reusable, thereby demonstrating transparency, openness and sustainability of public investment. Therefore, major funding agencies recommend and increasingly require data management plans documenting good practice of scientific work.

Contents of a data management plan

A data management plan includes documentation of the following aspects of research data management

  • Information on policies and responsibilities,
  • the collected or re-used data,
  • the survey methods and data formats,
  • necessary infrastructures, data exchange and access, distribution and publication,
  • the standards, metadata and documentation guidelines used,
  • the legal aspects of data collection and management,
  • the strategies for storing, versioning, backing up and archiving the data.

When should I create a data management plan?

A data management plan should be prepared before active research starts. That is within the planning and grant application processes, since decisions made for data collection, analysis, and documentation can have significant impact on subsequent archival, sharing and publication processes.

The Guidelines for Research Data Management of Ruhr University Bochum recommend to establish an active data management which accompanies the research process. In addition to structuring and describing the data itself, it is important to record procedures and protocols and document them in the data management plan.

Along these lines, funding agencies have started to request updated versions of the data management plans within the first months of the active research project. In their Horizon2020 program the European Research Council requires the regularly submission of updated data management plans for the entire funding period. In Horizon Europe, the creation of a data management plan will already be mandatory at the time of application. Tools and templates are available to support both processes.

Tools and templates