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Overview of Data Management

Data management research.

What is a Data Management Plan?

A data management plan (DMP) helps researchers work with, manage, share and archive their data effectively.  A DMP typically describes:

  • What data will be produced as a part of the project
  • How each type of data will be organized, documented, standardized, stored, protected, shared and archived
  • Who will take responsibility for carrying out the activities listed above, and
  • When these activities will take place over the course of the project (and beyond) 


Why Develop a Data Management Plan?

Developing a DMP can be helpful for multiple reasons.  A good DMP can help you: 

  • Save you time and effort: A good DMP will help you work more efficiently and enable you to find specific information with your data set quickly and easily.
  • Make your advisor happy:  A DMP can help you organize and document your data so that your faculty advisor will be able to understand and make use of your work.
  • Work more effectively with your peers:  Deciding early on how you and others in the lab will describe and manage your data and then writing these decisions down as a DMP will help you to be able to share your data with those who need it and bring components of a data set together efficiently. 
  • Insure that your data are usable in the future:  You may want to continue the work you are starting in SURF or repurpose your data for another research project.  Developing a DMP will help you to remember what you have done to develop the data and help you in repurposing it for future research. 
  • Gain skills in a growing area of need: Funding agencies are increasingly requiring researchers to develop DMPs as a part of applying for grants.  Knowing how to create a good DMP may make the difference between getting the grant or being rejected. Developing your skills in data management planning may make you a stronger candidate to employers or to graduate schools. 

What should be in a DMP?

Talk with your advisor about what should be in your data management plan.  Some questions to ask are:

  • What data will be generated in this project?
  • What data will I be responsible for?
  • How will the data that I am responsible for need to connect to other data sets?
  • What formats will be used (Excel, MySQL, jpg, etc.)?
  • How should the data be documented?  What information about the data will need to be captured so that others can understand it?
  • Where should the data be stored and who should have access to it?
  • How should the data be organized?  Should a file naming convention be used?
  • Will the data be published or archived at the end of the project?

Writing up the answers to these questions should form the basis of a solid data management plan.  You may need to ask additional or different questions based on your project and the work that you are doing.  See the "resources" box for examples and guides on putting together a DMP.