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Research Data Management: Plans and policies

Plans and policies

Thoughtful planning for effective data management will enable you to get the most out of your research, and ensure you are compliant with funder or publisher requirements.

Data management plans

What is a data management plan?

A data management plan describes how data will be managed during and after a research project. Data management plans typically include (but are not limited to):

  • what data will be collected and in what quantities;
  • who owns the data;
  • whether the data will (or will not) be shared, and if so, what will be shared and how;
  • how the data will be stored and for how long;
  • any security or ethical risks.

What is the point of having a data management plan?

A data management plan helps you to manage the data you produce for your own use, reuse and reporting to your funders, and clarifies individual and institutional roles, responsibilities and expectations. It helps to justify resources and funding required not just for the research process, but for maintaining, storing and preserving the data in line with funder and institutional policies.

The value of a data management plan comes from its usefulness; it should ideally serve as a living document, updated through the course of the project, rather than being an administrative ‘tick-box’ exercise. Consequently, data management planning should be embedded in the research workflow in a way that suits your individual practice.

Am I required to produce a data management plan?

Many major research funders require a data management plan, usually included as part of the funding application.

Even if it is not mandated, you are encouraged to write a data management plan to work through key considerations around documentation, security, storage, and publication.

How do I produce a data management plan?

Aston subscribes to DMPOnline, which allows you to create, review, and share data management plans that meet institutional and funder requirements. Sign up for an account using your institutional email and select 'Create plan' to follow a recommended template to ensure compliance.

Guidance on developing a useful and effective data management plan is available from the Digital Curation Centre.

What support is available?

Best practice examples are available from the Digital Curation Centre.

Research Data services can offer support related to data management or depositing data.

Research funding contacts can support you in developing a high quality bid.

Aston University Research Integrity Office can offer guidance on research ethics, governance, and integrity.

Data management plans

What to consider including in your data management plan

Adapted from guidance produced by the Digital Curation Centre.

  •     What data you will collect and how?
  •     Are there any existing data that you can reuse?
  •     Will your chosen formats and software enable sharing and long-term access to the data?
  •     How will you organise your folders and files?
  •     What quality assurance processes will you adopt?
  •     What information is needed for the data to be to be read and interpreted in the future?
  •     How will you capture or create this documentation and metadata?
  •     Have you allowed for sufficient resource to account for the time and effort needed to create this supporting documentation?
  •     Are there any ethical or legal issues to prepare for during data collection or that may restrict sharing?
  •     Where will the data will be stored and are there any implications for backup?
  •     What are the risks to data security and how will these be managed?
  •     How will you ensure that collaborators can access your data securely?
  •     Which data are of long-term value and should be preserved?
  •     Which data must be retained or destroyed for contractual, legal, or regulatory purposes?
  •     Have you costed in the time and effort required to prepare the data for preservation and sharing?
  •     Are you mandated to share your data by your funder or publisher, and what are the exact requirements?
  •     Are there any restrictions or conditions on data sharing?
  •     At what point in the research process will you make it available?
  •     How will people find your data? How might people acknowledge the reuse of your data? How might you encourage people to contact you for further collaborations?
  •     Who is responsible for implementing the DMP, and ensuring it is reviewed and revised?
  •     How will responsibilities be split across partner sites in collaborative research projects?

Key policies

Aston University policies

Funder policies

Many funders mandate for data sharing where possible, while recognising that it is not always possible to publish data. You should consult consult the funder guidelines directly for authoritative information.

Journal policies

Publishers are increasingly requiring that the underlying data for a publication is shared or published. Policies can vary journal by journal. For further information, please see these example policies: