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Data management plans

Data management plans

Data management plans

A data management plan (DMP) describes how the research data will be managed throughout the research lifecycle. This includes what research data will be created and/or collected, how it will be managed during the project, and how it will be shared and preserved at the end of the project. It should typically also describe any potential legal or ethical issues that need to be addressed. A DMP is a dynamic document, and should be updated as a project progresses and it should be reviewed regularly as your data needs change.

Data management plans in funding bids

The University’s Open Access Research and Research Data Management Policy states that all research proposals must include a DMP.

Additionally, most research funders require you to complete a DMP as part of the application process, although the format and content of these plans can differ between funders. A number of bids have been rejected on the basis of weak DMPs, so make sure you give yourself enough time to put together a good quality document.

The table below highlights the funder requirements for DMPs at the grant application stage, but some funders, including the Natural Environment Research Council, require more detailed data management plans to be submitted after a project has started.

FunderPlan requirementSubmit with grant application?GuidanceLength
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Data management plan Yes

Must cover the topics in the AHRC Funding Guide.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum of 2 A4 pages
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Data management and sharing plan Yes

Must cover the topics suggested in the BBSRC data sharing policy.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum of 1 A4 page
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Data management and sharing plan Yes

Must cover the topics suggested in the CRUK data sharing guidelines.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Not stated
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Data management plan Yes

Must cover the topics suggested by the UK Data Service.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum of 3 A4 pages
Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) Not required as part of funding application, but required for all funded projects. No Template and guidance available on DMPonline. Not stated
Horizon Europe Data management plan No

Horizon Europe provide a DMP template.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Not stated

Medical Research Council (MRC) Data management plan Yes

MRC provide a DMP template along with guidance.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum of 4 A4 pages for longitudinal studies, involving a series of data collections.

Maximum of 3 A4 pages for all other research.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Outline data management plan required as part of the funding application.

A full data management plan is required for funded projects.


NERC provide an outline DMP template and guidance. A full DMP template is also provided.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum of 1 A4 page for the outline DMP

Science and Technology Facilities Councils (STFC) Data management plan Yes

Must cover the topics suggested in the STFC guidelines on DMPs.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Maximum 2 A4 pages
Wellcome Trust Outputs management plan Yes

Wellcome Trust provide guidance on developing an outputs management plan.

Template and guidance available on DMPonline.

Not stated

Writing a data management plan

DMPonline, developed by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC), is a helpful tool for writing DMPs. DMPonline contains data management plan templates for all of the major research funders, and provides guidance and advice on what to include. DMPonline also has the DCC DMP checklist and example DMPs, illustrating the content and level of detail required. Guidance on using DMPonline can be found in the DMPonline User Guide.

Although each DMP is individual, they should all include the same basic information:

  • What data will be created?
  • How will the data be documented and described?
  • How will you manage ethics and intellectual property rights?
  • What are the plans for data sharing?
  • What is the strategy for long-term preservation and sustainability?

The Research Data Management team are happy to discuss your DMP with you and to provide feedback and comments on your draft DMP. To help you get started, the table below covers the elements that typically make up a DMP. It contains a list of points that you should think about, along with providing suggestions on possible wording.

Plan elementWhat to considerPossible wording
Existing data
  • Have you checked if there are existing data that your research can build on?
  • Where have you looked for this data?
  • Have you found any other projects conducting research in your area?
  • No existing datasets are available that are relevant to the proposed research project. A search for "[insert search terms here]" was conducted on the [UK Data Service] and no results were found.
  • The project will build on the work of [Dr A N Other] and the relevant data are archived in the [insert data repository here] with reference number: [insert reference number here]. Other relevant datasets can be found at [insert data repository here].
  • [Dr A N Other] is working on a project in a similar field and a data sharing contract has been put into place to allow for data sharing between the two projects.
  • Who will be responsible for the data during all stages of the project eg, for data collection, analysis, storage, and archiving?
  • If you will be working in a team, will there be regular meetings and/or guidance documentation to ensure the adequate management of the data across the team?
  • The Principal Investigator (PI) will be responsible for the management of the research data throughout the life of the project.
  • At the start of the project the research team will draw up a research data management policy.
  • The research team will have regular (monthly/quarterly) meetings to ensure all members have the same research data management procedures and policies in place. The senior project member at each institution will be responsible for research data management at that institution. The PI will have overall responsibility for data management.
Data storage
  • Where will you store your research data?
  • Does the University provide enough storage space for your data or will it need to be stored elsewhere?
  • Can the data be stored on cloud storage?
  • The data will be stored in the University's Research Data Storage (RDS) platform, a large object store that replicates across three sites allowing for high resilience and reliability.
  • Data collected in the field will be stored locally on the researcher's encrypted laptop and then transferred to a dedicated University SharePoint site once access to the internet becomes available.
  • All data will be stored on the PI’s encrypted laptop and backed up to an encrypted hard drive which will be stored in a locked cupboard in a separate room to the laptop. Paper questionnaires will be stored in a locked filing cabinet in the PI’s office.
  • All NHS data will be securely stored on the University's Secure Data Research Hub (SDRH) which conforms to the NHS Digital Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DPST) and all access is managed according to a Role Based Access Control principle.
  • All health related data will be stored on the NHS servers and accessed using NHS protocols.
Data backup
  • Where will the data be backed up?
  • How will it be backed up?
  • How many backups will you have?
  • Will the backups be geographically separated?
  • Data stored on the Research Data Storage (RDS) are replicated across three sites for high resilience and reliability.
  • SharePoint has its own highly robust data storage procedures.
  • The data will be backed up onto the PI’s laptop daily, and weekly onto an encrypted external hard drive which will be kept in a separate location from both the office PC and PI’s laptop.
Data formats
  • What data formats will you use to collect and store your data?
  • Are the formats widely used or specific to your project?
    • If specific, why are you not using more widely used formats?
  • Are the formats "open" or "proprietary"?
  • Where possible the project will use open or widely used data formats. This will include .TIFF for the image files and .flac format for the audio files.
  • The equipment being used produces the data in [insert format here] format. Although this is not widely used, the data can be easily transferred to [insert format here]. The data will be shared in this format and both the original and the migrated format will be archived together.
Quality assurance
  • How will you ensure the quality of your data?
  • Will you store a master copy?
  • What versioning system will you use?
  • Will you check the data regularly eg, for corrupted files?
  • Version control will be used. This will include a version control table on the front page of each document produced.
  • A master copy of the data will be stored. No analysis will be run on this copy so if the working copy gets corrupted, lost or becomes unusable we will be able to create an identical working copy. The master copy will be backed up on [insert backup details here] to ensure its integrity.
  • The PI will check the data analysis of the PhD students on a monthly/weekly basis. An initial check will be made on the Research Assistant’s analysis and monthly meetings will be held to discuss data analysis. A consistent versioning system will be implemented by the team.
Sharing data
  • Are you going to share data during your project?
    • If so, how will it be shared and in what format?
    • Note that cloud storage should not be used for sensitive or commercial data.
  • With whom are you sharing data – are they internal or external to the University?
  • Do you have permission to share the data you are using?
    • Plan to get the correct consent at the beginning of the project.
  • Research data will be shared with collaborators during the project using a dedicated University SharePoint site.
  • The research data will only be shared amongst the immediate research group. The data will be shared using a dedicated SharePoint site which allows files and folders to be shared with specified individuals.
  • Due to the commercially sensitive nature of the data, it will not be possible to share the research data.
  • Only fully anonymised data will be shared at the end of the project.
Personal, sensitive, and commercial data
  • Does the General Data Protection Regulation apply to your data?
    • Plan to get the correct consent at the beginning of the project to store and share your data.
  • Are your data of a sensitive or confidential nature?
    • If so, what data protection measures will you take – encryption, no use of cloud storage etc?
  • What does your ethical approval state about personal, sensitive, and commercial data?
  • Will you anonymise the data so that a version can be made available on Open Access at the end of the project?
  • How will you ensure that you comply with what your contract with an external partner states about the use of data?
  • The project will comply with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and University policies. All data covered by the GDPR will be password protected and kept on secure University filespace.
  • All data collected will be stored on secure University filespace. It will not be stored on any form of mobile device (laptop, tablet etc.).
  • All data will be kept on [insert organisation here – NHS, company name etc.]’s secure servers and will only be accessed on site.
  • Due to the commercially sensitive nature of the data, it will not be possible to share the research data.
  • Data will be fully anonymised before being made publicly available at the end of the project.
Copyright and intellectual property rights
  • Is copyright of research data agreed or clarified, especially for collaborative research or if various sources of data are combined?
  • Are plans in place for copyright clearance for data sharing (if possible)?
  • If you are re-using somebody else's data, do you have permission to share it and/or publish it?
  • If you are working with external partners and/or commercial organisations do you have the necessary contracts or agreements in place?
  • The [University of Exeter or project's institutional partners] will own the copyright of all data generated but the data will be made publicly available under a Creative Commons Licence.
  • Copyright clearance of the data will be obtained from the copyright holders to use and publish data at the end of the project.
Support documentation and metadata
  • What supporting documentation will you create?
  • When will you create the supporting documentation?
  • When will you create the metadata associated with your data?
  • Individual researchers will be responsible for creating the supporting documentation. The supporting documentation will be written at the time the data is collected/created. Meetings will be held regularly to check documentation for accuracy and consistency.
  • The project team will liaise with the [insert chosen data repository here] during the project to ensure that the necessary documentation and metadata is provided with the data at the point of deposit.
Archiving data
  • Where will you archive the data?
  • How will you select which data to archive?
  • Have you spoken to the archive manager about what data they will accept and in what formats and if there is a cost involved?
  • Check to see if your funder allows you to add data preservation costs as part of your application.
  • Check what your obligations are to your funder. Many now require that data is preserved for a minimum period of time.
  • Check what embargo period your funder allows.
  • Once the project is complete, selected data will be deposited to the University’s institutional repository, Open Research Exeter (ORE). All data that supports publications will be deposited and will be citable using a persistent identifier.
  • Data will be archived in the [insert data centre/museum/organisation here]. They have advised us on the supporting documentation and formats for deposit.