Data Management Plans - content

Data Management Plans - content

2. What is a data management plan?

A data management plan (DMP) can perform a number of roles over the course of a research project.

  • A checklist – a DMP acts a means of checking that everything that needs to be done to effectively manage the data you are working with is being done.  It can be particularly useful at the start of a project to ensure you get up and running smoothly, but can also be applied at different stages of the project to check everything is proceeding as it should be.
  • A manual – a DMP can go beyond a checklist and be used as a manual to guide you through different aspects of managing your data when needed.  Establishing how different aspects of data management can or should be undertaken as part of setting up your research will enable you to confidently address data management steps and issues as they arise.
  • A record – whilst a DMP is predominantly used for the purposes described above, it can also be used as a record of the data management activity you have undertaken.  This can then act as a demonstration of good research practice, and also be part of the overall project documentation and output.

The Digital Curation Centre recommends three stages of a DMP, which emphasise it being a living, working document. 

  • Minimal plan – at the conceptualisation or grant application stage
  • Core plan – once the funding is in place or when everything is ready to go with the research, covering data management issues up to the point of long-term management and preservation (usually the end of the research)
  • Full plan – that adds issues of longer term data management (post-research)

This practical approach can help focus the data management activity on what you need to do at each stage.  Note, though, that data management actions at the start of a project may have an impact on longer-term management, and it is of benefit to take the long view in completing all stages of the DMP.

In conclusion, a DMP is what you need it to be to aid your research and work with the data within this.  This section of the course will describe more fully the detail of a DMP for history research, based on a prepared template.  Subsequent sections will invite you to complete relevant parts of the DMP and by the end of the course you should have been able to complete a basic DMP for your research project.  It is important to take account of local guidance and practice in creating your DMP, but the general structure of the document will be the same across any research topic.