Plan how to manage your research data

Research projects often generate several data files, involve a team of collaborators, and span significant periods of time. Planning your data management contributes to a well-organized research project, saving you time and effort, and identifying roles and responsibilities for different research outputs. Although it is a good idea to begin writing a plan before the formal 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. Data management planning also brings efficiencies to your research process, saving you time and effort by identifying any potential gaps or roadblocks early in the project. 

Is a data management plan a formal requirement for my research project?

Many funding agencies, both in Canada and internationally, have begun to require data management plan documents to be submitted along with grant applications. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) have announced an initial set of funding opportunities that require submission of a data management plan during the application stage. Most grant funders, research institutions, and publishers all have requirements for research data management

What key components should my data management plan (DMP) include?

Your DMP should typically describe:

Planning tools and examples

DMP Assistant

The DMP Assistant is a bilingual tool for preparing data management plans in the Canadian research context. It is developed and maintained by the Digital Research Alliance of Canada (the Alliance), and is endorsed by the Canadian Tri-Agencies.

The tool walks researchers step-by-step through key questions about data management. Draft DMPs can be shared online with research collaborators anywhere, and with local research support units (e.g., research ethics, grants facilitators, research data librarians) who could give domain-specific suggestions and feedback. When you initially create an account with the DMP Assistant, make sure to select 'Simon Fraser University' as your organization; this will customize the help text available in your plan. 

login page for the DMP Assistant showing SFU as the organization

SFU Library Template

The SFU Library Template is a Word document that assists researchers in composing a data management plan, whether your project is in the initial stages or already underway.

Sample data management plans

The Digital Research Alliance of Canada provides access to a growing list of DMP exemplars and templates created by researchers in various subject areas. These templates are also available within the DMP Assistant tool described above. 

McMaster University has compiled a growing list of sample data management plans in their publicly accessible online DMP Database.