Modern research can often generate large quantities of research data and could involve many researchers. A crucial part of staying organized during the research process is to plan how this data will be managed and structured, and who takes responsibility for different aspects of the project.
Although it is a good idea to create a plan at the start of your research project, it is never too late to benefit from developing a systematic process for managing your research data.
What is a data management plan?
A data management plan (DMP) is a document you develop at the start of your research project and possibly modify through the life of your project that outlines all aspects of your data. Developing a data management plan is a vital part of your research process that helps you ensure your research data are accurate, complete, reliable, accessible, and secure both during and after your research.
Good data management benefits researchers in several ways:
- contextualizes your research and assists in recognizing any potential gaps/roadblocks before you start
- improves access to or re-use of data, if relevant
- increases visibility of your research
- ensures data integrity.
Is a data management plan a formal requirement for my research project?
Canada will soon require grant recipients to curate and actively manage their research data.
Funding agencies such as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSRC), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will shortly require grant recipients to adhere to a number of requirements supporting management of their research data. A draft of the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy is currently available for consultation.
What key elements should my data management plan include?
Your DMP should typically describe:
- what policies (i.e. funding) will apply to your data
- how the data will be organized (folder structures, file naming conventions, file versioning)
- how the data will be documented during the collection and analysis phase of your research
- what practices will be used to store, backup, and secure your data
- what facilities and equipment will be required (hard disk space, backup server, repository)
- who will have ownership and access rights, particularly if your research involves work with Indigenous peoples.
- how the data will be preserved and made available in the long term once your research is completed.