Writing a Data Management Plan
Many funders now require a Data Management Plan (or Technical or Data Sharing Plan) as part of the application for project funding. Although not compulsory for all funders, it is good practice for all new research projects to have such a plan.
The University of Liverpool recommends using DMPOnline to help complete a Data Management Plan. DMPOnline is written by the Digital Curation Centre and helps by condensing funder requirements into a series of straightforward questions so researchers can be sure they're always addressing the right issues. Creating an account with your University email address means that guidance specifically provided by the University will be available as you complete your plan. There are also examples of correctly completed ‘real life’ DMPs to consult.
A DMP is a living document, initially based on predictions but should be revisited and adapted at various stages in your project.
Points to consider when completing a DMP
- Funder Requirements – Funders are likely to specify how data is used, where you archive it, how long you retain it and who should be able to access it. Checking what your funders require and paying careful consideration to the requirements in your data management plan is crucial.
- Partners and Collaborators – Where the University of Liverpool is the lead institution on a collaborative project, you will need to set out protocols for data submission and consider how to store and share data between groups. Clear roles and responsibilities should be outlined at the planning stage to all organisations involved. In cases where the University of Liverpool is not the leading collaborative research institute, the PI representing the University of Liverpool should bear responsibility for familiarising themselves with the University's RDM policy and ensuring that the discovery metadata of the research is recorded within the University of Liverpool Data Catalogue.
- Current Stage of the Research Life Cycle – Original research data such as questionnaires that hold personal information are to be treated as confidential during the project's ‘active’ phase but with participant consent an anonymised version may be made available for public re-use when at the ‘archive’ stage. The storage choices you make will vary according to where you are in the project lifecycle.
- Sensitivity of the Data – Funders can specify how data is used, where you archive it, how long you retain it and who should be able to access it. Paying careful consideration to the requirements in your data management plan is crucial.
- The Format of Your Data – Particular protection will need to be put into place when managing data related to research of a commercially sensitive nature, or medical research including patient data/clinical trials. This may include anonymisation of data or in some cases encryption of files to keep them secure and ensure individuals cannot be identified.
- Ethical and Legal Considerations – The levels of confidentiality and security of the research data will depend heavily upon ethical considerations. Ethics and copyright as well as the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts will influence how your data is managed.