Data Management and Sharing

Planning for Data

Creating a plan that describes how data will be managed and shared throughout the course of a research project is an important step in ensuring that you, your collaborators, and potentially other researchers can find and use your data. 

Many research funding agencies have begun to require data management plans (DMPs), formal documents that specify how researchers plan to manage and share the data associated with a project, be submitted as part of grant proposals.

However, a DMP created as part of a grant application is really just the beginning. Your plan, as it is actually applied in the course of your research, can be more like a set of standard operating procedures that are put into practice by you and your collaborators. This page provides information about creating both DMPs for grant proposals and data-related plans to be shared with your research team.

Remember that, while it is important to create a plan, it is equally important that your plan is up-to-date and communicated to everyone involved in managing and sharing your data. The video below illustrates what can happen when a research team doesn't have a data management plan. Many data management issues can be handled easily or avoided entirely by planning ahead.

The Data Management Plan (DMP)

Funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) have laid out specific criteria for what should be included in a data management plan.

The table below outlines similar requirements for the National Institutes of Health, that are set to go into effect in 2023. If you would like assistance completing a data management plan for a grant proposal, please contact your liaison librarian to schedule a 1-1 consultation.

Plan Element Description
Data Type(s)

A description of the scientific data to be managed, preserved, and shared. This should include both a general summary of the types and the estimated amount of scientific data to be generated and/or used in the research and also a description of which scientific data from the project will be preserved and shared.

Related Tools, Software and/or Code An indication of whether specialized tools are needed to access or manipulate shared scientific data to support replication or reuse.
Standards A description of what standards will be applied to the scientific data and associated metadata (i.e., data formats, data dictionaries, data identifiers, definitions, unique identifiers, and other data documentation).
Data Preservation, Access, and Associated Timelines

Plans and timelines for data preservation and access. This includes the name of the repository(ies) where scientific data and metadata arising from the project will be archived, how the scientific data will be findable and identifiable, and when the scientific data will be made available to other users.

Access, Distribution, or Reuse Considerations NIH expects that in drafting Plans, researchers maximize the appropriate sharing of scientific data generated from NIH-funded or conducted research, consistent with privacy, security, informed consent, and proprietary issues. This portion of the plan should describe any applicable factors affecting subsequent access, distribution, or reuse of scientific data related to informed consent, privacy and confidentiality protections, and whether access to scientific data derived from humans will be controlled.
Oversight of Data Management and Sharing A description of how compliance with the plan will be monitored and managed, frequency of oversight, and by whom (e.g., titles, roles).

Because different funding agencies have different requirements for their data management plans, it can be helpful to use a tool like DMPTool. Created by a group of institutions led by the California Digital Library, DMPTool is designed to help researchers create high-quality DMPs that meet the requirements of their specific funding agency. Because we are an affiliated institution, Stanford researchers can sign into DMPtool using their SUNet ID.

The DMPTool can:

  • Help you meet the funding requirements of your next grant.
  • Collaborative plan creation and co-ownership with colleagues.
  • Put you in touch with expert help at Lane Library and Stanford University Libraries

Data Management Planning

Even if you are not creating a DMP as part of a grant proposal, it is still helpful to maintain some kind of document that outlines how data should be managed over the course of a research project.

The table below outlines the elements to consider including in your data related plan (whether you call it a DMP or something else) as well as some questions to ask yourself when considering what information to include.

Element Questions to ask yourself
Data Collection What data do you plan to collect/acquire?
Documentation What information will be needed to ensure your data can be read, interpreted, or used in the future?
Compliance How will you handle any ethical and/or legal issues related to your data?
Storage How will you store and manage access to your data?
Preservation What data should data be retained, archived, or preserved for the long term?
Data sharing How will you share your data? Are there restrictions on what you can share?
Responsibilities Who is responsible for ensuring that the data is well managed? What resources will you/they require?

This document may be part of a broader set of standard operating procedures or it may stand alone. While it is important to create such a document, it is equally important to make sure its contents are updated and communicated to the relevant members of the research team.