Each project will be different and have different types of data. Remember that a data management plan is a living document and should be reviewed and updated regularly, especially if unforeseen data is collected.
The recommended structure for a data management plan is as follows:
Write a few paragraphs about the research project to give some perspective to the remainder of the plan. Use this section to introduce any terminology that will be used in the DMP.
Whilst not compulsory, it is good practice to see if there are existing data that could replace or augment the data you are planning to create. It is a condition of ESRC grants that you conduct a review of the UK Data Archive to ensure that the data you are planning to create does not already exist.
• Have you searched the web and data archives for similar datasets?
• Are there any datasets that could assist with your research?
• How do the existing datasets fail to meet your requirements and therefore require new data to be created?
You should list all the data that will be created during the project. The remainder of the DMP then deals with how each item of data will be managed.
Data organization methods are largely a matter of personal preference and will usually not be of interest to the recipients of the DMP. The exception would be if resources were required for IT infrastructure, software, or training.
List any relevant policies. Some policies (such as data archiving) are relevant to all research projects, whereas privacy will usually be associated with medical and social science projects.
• Does any of your data contain personal information that must be kept confidential?
• Does your funding agreement require data archiving?
• Are there any other data management requirements in your funding agreement?
List the owners and stakeholders of the data. Also note who will own any intellectual property created by your research.
List who will have access to the research data and what access permissions they will have for specific data. If the data will be distributed at some point, list the access restrictions and any embargoes that will be used.
Describe how the access permissions will be enforced and what IT security practices will be used. If you have sensitive data, describe any special measures used to store and backup this data.
• Is any data of a sensitive nature?
• What are the implications of unauthorized access to this data?
• Are there any safe measures warranted? (encryption, external hard-drive in locked cabinet/safe)
List what data will be backed up and what the backup schedule is. Also mention if any data will be kept under version control and how that will be implemented.
• Is there a backup service already available or will you need to do it yourself?
• How often will backups occur?
• Who will be responsible for performing backups?
• How will sensitive data be backed up?
List what formats, standards, and conventions will apply to each data item. Justify the use of particular formats in terms of usability, longevity, suitability for archiving.
• Will other researchers be able to use this format?
• Will this format be usable in ten years time?
• Does your archive accept this file format or can you easily convert to an acceptable format?
List what data will be made available for other researchers to use.
• What data will be shared?
• What facilities will be used/required to distribute the data?
• How will the data be licensed?
• What access restrictions will be placed on each item of data?
Estimate the amount of storage space required for archiving, which archive you intend to use, and whether or not you have discussed your project with the archive manager. If the data is sensitive, describe how you will ensure the data will be safely disposed.
• Which archive service will be used?
• How long must you keep your data archived for?
• When do you plan to archive each item and will they have an embargo period?
• How much time and resources will be required for archiving?
• What metadata will be needed for each data type?
List who will be responsible for ensuring each item in the data management plant is carried out. Also note who is responsible for reviewing and modifying the data management plan.
Now that the data management methods and responsibilities have been established, you can estimate the costs of data management for your project. Often the time involved in documenting, writing metadata, and archiving are underestimated. Make note of any costs associated with using data management services or purchasing equipment (such as fileservers, backup media, software, etc.) used for data management.
Many organisations have put together a data management plan template. Below is a selection of these templates. You may find it useful to modify one of these templates for your purposes.