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Preparing Data Management Plans for Grant Applications

As the data produced by research in all fields increase in volume and complexity, funding agencies have begun to require researchers to create plans for managing, sharing, and preserving their data. Specific and detailed data management plans are required for all proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation and to the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities. Many other federal and private funding agencies have less structured data sharing policies. For example, the NIH only requires data sharing plans for proposals requesting more than $500,000 per year in funding; these plans generally consist of a brief paragraph outlining the size and complexity of the datasets to be generated by the research, how the data will be shared, and how confidentiality will be protected (examples). The intent of these data management requirements is to encourage open and timely sharing of research data and ensure that data are stored in a secure and accessible manner.

Why manage your data?

The Tufts Data Management Services online resource highlights a number of reasons why managing your data is important. In addition to meeting the new requirements from funding agencies, thoughtful management of your data can

  • Increase the visibility of your work by allowing other researchers to access it through widely used repositories.

  • Facilitate new discoveries by allowing other researchers to use your data.

  • Save time by standardizing how you preserve data and minimizing the need to deal with requests for data.

  • Improve your research efficiency by preserving data and the documentation necessary for interpretation.

Help with Data Management Plans: Resources for Tufts Researchers

Assistance with data management and preparing data management plans is available to Tufts researchers through the Tisch Library. Data Management Services (DMS) Coordinator Regina Raboin and her team have created an online Data Management resource that includes information about data management requirements for various funding agencies, links to data repositories and data sharing services, and a primer on documentation and metadata. DMS consultants are also available to help researchers individually with preparation of data management plans (DMPs) for grant applications. An initial interview in person or by phone can help researchers identify the types of data a project will generate as well as the available methods for storage, access, and archiving. The DMS team will also review drafts of data management plans for grant proposals prior to submission. The team has experience in research, collection development, and metadata/cataloging and can highlight information from your grant narrative that needs to be included in a DMP.

Raboin recommends that researchers pay particular attention to two aspects of a DMP: metadata and open access. These reflect the major priorities of data management: to provide sufficient information for data interpretation in the future and to promote open sharing of knowledge.

Metadata. Metadata provide details about the information contained in a dataset (examples on DMS page). Because they specify data characteristics, metadata are crucial for discovery, preservation, and curation of data. DMS staff can help researchers determine what metadata to specify in a DMP and determine optimal metadata standards for their research.

Open access. Tufts researchers have access to a range of repositories, which are often field specific and limited to certain kinds of data. In addition, Tufts hosts two data depositories that may meet some researchers' needs. Because repositories provide viable, sustainable open access with more safeguards and a higher profile than a laboratory website can offer, it is important to choose the appropriate repository for your particular data and field of study. DMS staff can help researchers decide on the best digital repositories for their work. DMS staff also work closely with the staff of Tufts’ Digital Collections and Archives and with Lionel Zupan, director of research and geospatial technical services, to craft the appropriate specialized language to describe Tufts’ data storage options for your specific DMP.

Although most agencies have yet to establish procedures for monitoring data management plans, it is important to be sure that your plan is achievable and appropriate for your data and field.

Contents of the Data Management Plan: The NSF guidelines as a framework for understanding data management

The NSF data management requirements provide a good overview of what to consider when preparing a DMP. Links to the general guidelines for NSF DMPs and to additional program- or directorate-specific guidelines are available on the NSF website.

The general policy recommends that researchers answer the five questions paraphrased here:

  • What products will the proposed research generate? Include all data, samples, software, curricula, and other materials produced by the project.

  • What format will the data be in? Describe standards for data and metadata format and content.

  • How will data be shared? Describe who will have access to data and the policies and practices that govern access. Include information on confidentiality, security, short-term storage and backup procedures, and protection of intellectual property rights.

  • What policies will govern reuse, redistribution, and production of derivatives?

  • How will data be archived? As part of the plan for archiving, describe how access to data and other research products will be preserved.

Whom should I contact to request help with data management?

  • For engineering, mathematics, or entrepreneurship projects, please contact Karen Vagts.

  • For metadata issues, please contact Alicia Morris.

  • For all other disciplines and for general queries, please contact Regina Raboin.



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