A data management plan or data sharing plan is a formal document that describes how you will manage or curate your research materials during and beyond the lifetime of your research project. This material might be the research data underpinning your published outputs or the documentation of your creative practice.
You do not need to approach data management planning too rigidly as it is understood that your plans will change and need updating over time as your project evolves. But writing a data management plan before you begin to create or acquire your research materials will help you make choices early on in your project about how your research materials will be secured, and how they can be used, shared, published, and preserved.
A good data management plan will save you time and effort later, improve the efficiency and integrity of your research, enable your research to be validated by others, and maximise the reach and impact of your research.
For these reasons, the University’s Research Data Management Policy strongly recommends that a data management plan is completed for all research proposals. Data management plans are also increasingly mandated by research funders and form a standard component of grant applications to the major research councils.
On this page, you’ll find guidance and resources to help you write a data management plan.
Funder requirements and templates
The format and content of data management plans differ between funders, as do the expectations around publishing, sharing, and preserving your research data at the end of your project.
If you're applying to a research funder, you should familiarise yourself with their data management and sharing expectations and make sure you use the correct data management plan template. You can find these on their websites.
If you're thinking of applying for funding, you should contact the Research Development Team as early as possible at [email protected]. The team provide support for all funding applications and can review your data management plan prior to submission.
For further guidance:
- the University of Bath has a detailed summary of funder requirements and expectations
- the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has a summary of health funder requirements for data management and sharing
- the Digital Curation Centre hosts a summary of funders’ data policies
- the University of Sheffield hosts a range of annotated funder templates and rubrics to support writing DMPs for funding applications
- the University of Bristol has developed detailed planning guides for most major funders
- the Digital Curation Centre hosts examples of completed data management plans for a range of funders
You can also access annotated data management plan templates for all the major UK and EU research funders at DMPonline. Login with your University of Westminster credentials to download or edit the templates and to find up-to-date guidance to help you interpret and answer the questions.
What should I include in a data management plan?
Because of the diversity of research, there is no single correct answer to what a data management plan should cover. However, a good data management plan should typically address how you plan to create, describe, curate, secure, preserve, and share your research data or research materials. You should justify the decisions you make and be prepared to implement your plan.
If you're not using an external funder template, download this checklist for a data management plan from the Digital Curation Centre to get you started, and refer to the guidance below to complete the plan.
What data or research materials will you create or re-use?
- How will new data build on and relate to existing data? Why were existing data unsuitable for re-use in your new project?
- What type, format, and volume of data will you create or acquire?
- Did you choose these formats because they are standards in your discipline, are linked to the software or equipment you will use, or because they are open file formats that will enable sharing and long-term access to the data?
- Can you estimate the size of the data you'll create? Will it be less than 500GB, around 1TB, or substantially more than 1TB? Will you need to apply for additional cloud storage space?
- How many boxes might non-digital research materials fill? What methods will you use to capture your data and how will these ensure that your data are high quality? Will you use standard protocols, include replicates or controls, or automate data capture? Will you peer review data entry to validate your data?
For more detailed guidance visit our managing practice-based research and non-digital data page.
How will you document and describe your data?
- How will you organise your data and research materials? How will you structure and name your files and folders?
- What are your plans for digitising and organising physical artefacts or research materials?
- What contextual information is needed for you or someone else to understand your data? Do you need to record methodologies, equipment settings or abbreviations used?
- How will you capture contextual information? Will this be in a ‘readme’ text file to accompany the data, or will you embed metadata directly in file properties or headers?
- Are there any disciplinary standards that you will use? The Digital Curation Centre maintains a list of metadata standards for different disciplines
You can find more detailed guidance on our organising your data page.
How will you store your data?
- Where will you store your data?
- How will you ensure that your research materials are backed up? Will you use University-managed storage or will you need to set up your own back-up or digitisation procedures?
You can find more detailed guidance on our storing and sharing data page.
How will you protect personal and sensitive information?
- How will you secure your data?
- What methods will you use to restrict access to personally or commercially sensitive data?
- How will you comply by the Data Protection Act for any personally sensitive data you work with?
- Will you encrypt hardware when working off campus?
- How will you protect your research participants? Will you obtain informed consent for data retention and sharing? How will you anonymise data to safeguard the privacy of your participants?
- How will you manage copyright and intellectual property issues for the data you create or re-use?
See research ethics for further information about the University’s code of practice, application process and forms for research ethics approval.
Which data will you retain and preserve after your project ends?
- What research materials and underpinning datasets will you keep at the end of your project? What are the foreseeable research uses of your research data?
- Where will you deposit your data to ensure that they are preserved and sustained for several years after your project ends? Will you submit your data to a specialist data repository? If so, have you checked it is the most appropriate place to deposit or publish your data?
- How will you prepare your data for long-term preservation? Are you able to convert your data to open file formats (UK Data Archive)? What contextual information do you need to retain so that your data remain understandable and usable?
- Will you need to digitise physical materials or artefacts for preservation?
- Will you retain anonymised versions but destroy personal data and identification keys? Will you retain all of the raw data or is a processed version more suitable to preserve? Do you need to keep all intermediary files or would you only need to refer back to input files or a final version?
- How big will your final dataset or digitised materials be and will there be any costs associated with archiving them, such as data deposit charges?
- How will you securely destroy any data that needs to be deleted?
You can find more detailed guidance on our data repositories page.
What are your plans for data sharing?
- Who will you share the data with, and under what conditions?
- When will you publish or make your data available? Will data be made available upon first publication of findings or within a limited period after the end of the project? Do you need to delay publication to allow for commercialisation or patent applications? Will you embargo your data to allow for a limited period of exclusive use?
- Are there any reasons why you would not be able to share some of your data? Would they be covered by the Data Protection Act, licence restrictions or contractual confidentiality clauses? Are there ethical reasons why data should not be released?
- What actions can you take to overcome any restrictions? For example, can you share a subset of the data where informed consent was granted for data sharing?
- How will you share your data? Will you publish supplementary information alongside journal articles? Will the data repository where you archive your data make it available? Will you forward copies of the data upon request?
- What licence will you apply to your data?
- How will you disseminate your research? Will you include a data access statement in published articles? Does your chosen method of data preservation provide a persistent URL such as a Digital Object Identifier? What licences will you assign to your data?
The data management issues relevant to your area of research are unlikely to change rapidly, so you will be able to re-use and adapt aspects of your data management plan for future research projects.
- How to develop a data management and sharing plan from the Digital Curation Centre
Email the research data management officer at [email protected].