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Data Management for Research

What are Data Management Plans?

Data management plans (also called DMPs) are written documents that describe how research data will be organized throughout a project, from initial planning stages, to collecting/generating data, to analysis, and finally to storing the data and publishing the research. Creating a data management plan before your project starts is a great way to help ensure that your research data will stay organized, accessible, and understandable to yourself and all members of your research team. While we recommend creating data management plans for all projects, they are especially important if you are applying for a grant from a funding agency, many of which require data management plans at the time of your grant proposal submission!

Making a data management plan might feel overwhelming for some researchers! We totally understand that. Many funding agencies limit data management plans to 2 pages, which can leave the researcher wondering what information is important to include, and what to leave out. At CMU Libraries, we are here to help support you in this process! Feel free to read through our resources below, and please reach out to us at data@cmu.libanswers.com for additional support in your data management plan journey! 

Ingredients of a Good Data Management Plan

The following questions should be addressed in your data management plan in order to provide a holistic, yet detailed overview of how you will engage with data in your research project. If you are writing your data management plan for a grant funding proposal, several agencies such as the NSF and NIH limit your plan to two pages, so allocate your space strategically!

  • What data will be generated in this project?
  • Who will be responsible for the data at each stage?
  • How will datasets need to be connected?
  • What formats will be used (Excel, MySQL, jpg, etc.)?
  • What information about the data will need to be captured so that others can understand it?
  • Where should the data be stored and who should have access to it?
  • How should the data be organized and named?
  • How will the data be published or archived at the end of the project?

Your Data Management Plan Should Evolve, Just Like Pokémon!

Even though we generally create data management plans at the start of our research, they are living documents! As your project grows and progresses, you may find yourself engaging with the data in a different way, or trying a new analysis. As these changes occur, it's a great practice to update your data management plan to reflect those changes. Much in the way that Pokémon grow and evolve as they spend more time with their trainer and get more experience, your data management plan should also evolve! 

Image of the Pokemon Bulbasaur's evolutions

Image description: three images of the Pokemon Squirtle (a blue turtle with a dark brown shell top and light yellow stomach shell color, with a swirly tail and red eyes) progressing through their evolution to Blastoise, which is a dark blue turtle with a dark brown shell color and cannons coming out of each side of their back.

DMPTool: Build your Data Management Plan

DMPTool is an online platform providing ready-to-use templates for creating data management plans to be used in grant submissions for funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Defense, and many more. Visit dmptool.org and sign in with your CMU credentials to get started! We also offer several sample DMPs, created by our Research Data Services team, which you are free to use as guides for your data management plans. You can view these under "My Dashboard" and scroll towards the bottom of the page to the section titled "Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Plans."