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Research Data Management: Data Management Planning

Fundamental aspects of data management planning

The most important time to address how research data will be managed is before researcher begins collecting data. SU researchers are advised to plan ahead as this entail that a researcher can properly organise, document and care for research data throughout the research process and beyond. The fundamentals of good data management lies between understanding best practices and individual researcher needs. To find balance, researchers ought to ask themselves the following questions:

• what type of data do I have? How much do I have?
• do I use third-party data?
• what data tools and technologies that are readily available?
• are the technologies internal or external to SU?
• how long must I keep data?
• will I share the data generated from the research?
• does the generated data have security concerns, such as personally identifiable information?
• what does the funder or SU require?
• is there anything particular in my research workflow that might affect how I manage the research data?

What is data management planning?
Many research funders require researchers to submit data management plans, and this is based on understanding the value and fragility of research data. A data management plan is a document that describes what a researcher plans to do with research data during and after a project.

Data management planning tools
The process of data management planning is facilitated through the use of data management plans (DMPs) software tools. The specific contents of a DMP often depend on the nature of the research data, researcher needs, and sometimes other external requirements (e.g. funders). Outlined below are some of the questions that are addressed by a good DMP:
• what type of data will be created or generated?
• how will a researcher document and organise research data?
• how will research data be stored and kept secure?
• how will data be managed once the research project has been completed
• how will research data be made available for reuse?
NB: the SU Library and Information Service does provide researchers with support that enables them to address the above listed questions.

Data management plan templates
Some research funders recommend their own DMP to be submitted as part of grant applications. At times, DMPs
are created in order to assist researchers with the management of their research data even if grant applications are not applicable. DMP templates are often based on specific funder requirements which are outlined in funder policy documents. Researchers can access the official SU DMP template called SunDMP

Funder requirements in relation to research data management

Many funders require research data generated through research initiatives to be made publicly available. This is stipulated on RDM policy documents as part of the requirements for data sharing and formal data management plans. Listed below are some of the local and international research funders along with their mandates that SU researchers may consider:

  • South Africa

National Research Foundation (NRF)

  • International

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (USA)
National Science Foundation (NSF) (USA)
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (USA)
The Royal Society (UK)
Welcome Trust (UK)

  • Publisher policies

It is becoming common practice for some journals to require researchers to share their research data as a publication condition. In most instances, research data sharing policies are found under sections "instructions for authors" or "author guidelines." Listed below are some of the journal publishers that provide list of repositories along with related research data sharing policies:

Nature: Availability of data, material and methods
Springer Nature: Research data policies and services
Wiley: Wiley's data sharing service

Evaluation of Data Management Plans