NSF-Specific Data Management Plan (DMP)

In January 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) instituted a requirement that all funding proposals submitted to that agency must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages called a "Data Management Plan" (DMP). The DMP should describe how the funding proposal conforms to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. The NSF policy became government policy in February 2013, when the White House Office of Scientific and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies on increasing access to the results of federally funded scientific research. Among other things, the memorandum requires federal agencies to develop policies aimed at increasing public access to journal articles and research data (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf).

This template is intended to help Auburn University researchers draft effective data management plans for the NSF and other funding agencies with similar requirements. The template addresses the six points mentioned in the original NSF guidelines: roles and responsibilities, types of data, data formats and metadata, policies for public access, policies and provisions for re-use and re-distribution, and plans for archiving and preservation.

1. Roles and responsibilities

Explain how the responsibilities regarding the management of your data will be delegated. This should include time allocations, project management of technical aspects, training requirements, and contributions of non-project staff (individuals should be named where possible). Remember that those responsible for long-term decisions about your data will likely be the custodians of the repository/archive where you choose to store your data. While the costs associated with your research (and the results of your research) must be specified in the Budget Justification portion of the proposal, you may want to reiterate who will be responsible for funding the management of your data. Consider these questions:

  • Outline the staff/organizational roles and responsibilities for implementing this data management plan.
  • Who will be responsible for data management and for monitoring the data management plan?
  • How will adherence to this data management plan be checked or demonstrated?
  • What process is in place for transferring responsibility for the data?
  • Who will have responsibility over time for decisions about the data once the original personnel are no longer available?

2. Types of data

Give a short description of the data, including amount (if known). If you won't be keeping all of the data, use this section to explain what you will retain and why. Consider these questions:

  • What data will be generated in the research?
  • What data types will you be creating or capturing?
  • How will you capture or create the data?
  • If you will be using existing data, state that fact and include where you got it. What is the relationship between the data you are collecting and the existing data?
  • What data will be preserved for the long-term?
  • How will you select the data for preservation and sharing?

3. Data formats and metadata

Describe the format of your data, and think about what details (metadata) someone else would need to be able to use these files. Metadata may entail descriptions of research details such as: experiments, apparatuses, computational codes, etc. Consider these questions:

  • Which file formats will you use for your data, and why?
  • What form will the metadata describing/documenting your data take?
  • How will you create or capture these details?
  • Which metadata standards will you use and why have you chosen them? (e.g. accepted domain-local standards, widespread usage).
  • What contextual details (metadata) are needed to make the data you capture or collect meaningful?

Tip: Auburn University researchers can consult their library subject specialist for help with metadata. List of specialists at: http://libguides.auburn.edu/subjectspecialists.

4. Policies for public access, sharing and publication delays

It is very important that you specify how you will share your data with non-group members after the project is completed. You must explain how and when the data will become available. Will data be accessible on a web page, by email request, via open-access repository, etc.? If the data is of a sensitive nature -- privacy or ecological endangerment concerns, for instance -- and public access is inappropriate, address here the means by which granular control and access will be achieved (e.g. formal consent agreements, anonymization of data, only available within a secure network, etc.). Consider these questions:

  • How and when will you make the data available? (Include resources needed to make the data available: equipment, systems, expertise, etc.)
  • What is the process for gaining access to the data?
  • Will any permission restrictions need to be placed on the data?
  • Are there ethical and privacy issues? If so, how will these be resolved?
  • As applicable, what have you done to comply with regulatory and compliance obligations (IACUC, IRB, etc.)?
  • Who will hold the intellectual property rights to the data and how might this affect data access?
  • Which bodies/groups are likely to be interested in the data?
  • What and who are the intended or foreseeable uses/users of the data?
  • Do you plan on publishing findings which rely on the data?
  • If so, do your prospective publishers place any restrictions on other avenues of publication?
  • How long will the original data collector/creator/principal investigator retain the right to use the data before opening it up to wider use?
  • Explain details of any embargo periods for political/commercial/patent or publisher reasons.

Tip: Auburn University researchers can satisfy this requirement by depositing copies of their research datasets in the Auburn University Repository of Research Assets (AUrora: http://aurora.auburn.edu/) and/or through appropriate disciplinary repositories, as identified through the REgistry of REsearch Data REpositories (http://www.re3data.org/) or the Directory of Open Access Repositories (http://www.opendoar.org/).

5. Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and production of derivatives

Explain how the policies outlined in the previous question can be applied to the re-use and re-distribution of your data. Identify who will be allowed to use your data, how they will be allowed to use your data and whether or not they will be allowed to disseminate your data. If you are planning on restricting access, use or dissemination of the data, you must explain in this section how you will codify and communicate these restrictions. Data that underlie the findings reported in a journal article or conference paper should be deposited in accordance with the policies of the publication and according to the procedures laid out in the DMP included in the proposal that led to the award on which the research is based.

Consider the following:

  • Will any permission restrictions need to be placed on the data?
  • Who is likely to be interested in the data?
  • What and who are the intended or foreseeable uses the data?

6. Plans for archiving and preservation

This portion of the Data Management Plan asks you to provide a long-term strategy for archiving and preserving the data from the research described in your proposal. Consider these questions:

  • What is the long-term strategy for maintaining, curating and archiving the data?
  • Which archive/repository/database have you identified as a place to deposit data?
  • What procedures does your intended long-term data storage facility have in place for preservation and backup?
  • How long will/should data be kept beyond the life of the project?
  • What are the project, funders' or institutions' policies on data retention? (Tip: AU researchers can find a General Records Retention Schedule for Alabama Universities at: http://www.lib.auburn.edu/archive/records_schedule.htm)

Also consider these questions about the data and associated information that will be deposited:

  • What data will be preserved for the long-term?
  • What transformations will be necessary to prepare data for preservation / data sharing?
  • What metadata/documentation will be submitted alongside the data or created on deposit/ transformation in order to make the data reusable?
  • What related information will be deposited?

Tip: Auburn University researchers can satisfy this requirement by preserving their research data in the Alabama Digital Preservation Network (ADPNet: http://adpn.org/), a geographically distributed digital preservation network for the state of Alabama. Contact libhelp@auburn.edu for details.

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