Funding institutions such as the SNSF now require researchers to fill a data management plan with their application. What is a data management plan (DMP), and how should you answer its questions?
A DMP is a document that explains how the research data will be managed through all the steps of the research process: collection, analysis, documentation, preservation, and sharing. It details data formats, legal and ethical concerns, storage solutions, conservation strategy, and other issues.
It is a tool to help you adopt efficient and appropriate data management. In the planning phase, you should prepare for issues that will arise during the whole research cycle to save time later on, tackle problems before they even appear, and set rules for collaborative work through the use of good practices.
An SNSF DMP is relatively short. The SNSF expects approximately 2 pages of text in total, answering 10 questions, plus 2 checkboxes. This doesn’t mean it will be fast to fill: you can expect several hours of work and thinking to write up a decent plan. Don’t wait until the last day before the submission to start working on it.
A DMP is a draft and only becomes final when the project reaches its end. It should be revised and updated throughout your research process, as new information arises and more decisions are taken.
An SNSF DMP is not part of your project evaluation. The FNS expects a “plausible” DMP to release funds, but any revisions will only be requested after the project has been accepted.
Resources that can help
What is data in my research field? We’ve covered that in a previous post. Check it out!
Are there standard answers I can use? Answers can’t be standard as each DMP relates to a specific dataset. We have however created an IHEID Template for the SNSF Data Management Plan based on the work of the EPFL and ETHZ libraries for the Swiss Data Life Cycle Management project (DLCM). It contains detailed explanations and examples related to the social sciences. We will try to offer additional examples in the future – any comment or suggestion is welcome!
How should I choose my file formats? The EPFL Library has created a handy list of recommended file formats that can apply to the social sciences too.
You’re not alone. The SNSF online form itself includes comments and additional questions to help you flesh out your answers. We can also help you write your DMP or offer feedback on your draft. If you have specific questions, you can simply contact us by e-mail: email@example.com.
I will not use any data. Should I really fill a DMP?
In some specific fields (theoretical law, philosophy, etc.), you might not use data in any meaningful way, even with the definition we previously mentioned. The SNSF is aware of this and offers you the opportunity to explain why a DMP cannot be filled for your research.
Original picture (cropped): Research Data Management, by Janneke Staaks, CC BY-NC 2.0