Proposals & Publications Office

Guide to Creating a Data Management Plan

As of Jan. 18, 2011, all proposal submissions to the National Science Foundation must include a Data Management Plan, to be included in the “supplemental documents” section. The two-page document must describe the principle investigator’s plan for disseminating and sharing research results of the proposed activity. While the information included in each document will be specific to the proposal or project, there are some general guidelines that can be helpful.

Unless otherwise specified in a specific program solicitation, or by a directorate, a DMP should address:

  • The types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  • The standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
  • Policies for access and sharing, including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property or other rights or requirements;
  • Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution and the production of derivatives; and
  • Plans for archiving data, samples and other resource products, and for preservation of access to them.

NSF has created a helpful set of FAQs to address questions and concerns regarding the supplementary document.

Common questions include:
Q: What constitutes “data” covered by a DMP?

This depends on the specific project, but can include data, publications, samples, physical collections, software and models.
Q: Is a DMP required if my project is not expected to generate data or samples?

Yes. You can state in the DMP that the project is not anticipated to generate data or samples that require management or sharing.
 Q: Should the costs of implementing the DMP be included in the budget and justification?

Yes. If costs are necessary to implement the DMP and are allowable in accordance with all cost policies, they must be included in the budget and justification as expenses to the project.
 Q: Does this policy mean that I must make my data available immediately, even before publication?

Not necessarily. The expectation is that all data will be made available after a reasonable length of time. However, what constitutes a reasonable length of time will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management.
Q: Does NSF have particular requirements for what types of samples, physical collections and so forth should be saved?

No. Reasonable requirements will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management, and standards are likely to evolve with new technologies and resources.
Q: Must I share data and samples if requested before I have completed all analyses on them?

Why is a DMP so important?

The focus of the DMP is to alleviate concerns regarding falsification and fabrication of research results. Research integrity is essential to a successful proposal, and data management is a key element in ensuring the integrity of the research record. Inadequate data management such as substandard archival methods or poor security can raise doubts about the quality of work integrity of research. Some principles to keep in mind when considering DMP include:

    Integrity of research depends on the integrity of the data. Because data provide factual basis for scientific work, the integrity of the research depends on the integrity in all aspects of the collection, use and sharing of data.
    Integrity of the data is a shared responsibility. Every member of the research team has a responsibility to ensure the integrity of the data. The ultimate responsibility belongs to the PI, but the central importance of data to all research means that this responsibility extends to anyone who helps in planning the study, collecting the data, analyzing or interpreting the research findings, publishing the results of the study or maintaining the research records.  
    Research data should be shared with other scientists. Progress in science will be achieved most readily when information is freely exchanged. A failure to share data can result in the unwitting repetition of failed research strategies.

Any questions regarding Data Management Plans can be directed to the INE Proposal Office: Sandra Boatwright at x7209 or