Data management plans (DMPs) are essential for any research project. They provide a structured approach to data management throughout the data lifecycle, resulting in better quality data that is ready to be archived for sharing and reuse. DMPs focus on aspects related to project data and work together with other project descriptive documents, such as a proposal, project plan, or BASIS+ entry. They are also claimed to increase research efficiency, as both the data collector and other researchers can understand and use well-annotated data in the future.
The USGS requires that the project work plan (SM 502) for each research project funded or managed by the USGS must include a data management plan prior to the start of the project. The ESRC Research Data Policy states that research data created as a result of research funded by ESRC should be openly available to the scientific community to the greatest extent possible, through long-term conservation and management of high-quality data. A data management plan should include information on what data will be acquired or produced during the research, how it will be managed, described and stored, what standards will be used, and how it will be handled and protected during and after the completion of the project. Automated workflows help streamline the review and approval process, as well as facilitate records management.
It is also important to anticipate costs ahead of time to ensure that data is properly managed and archived. Data managers and communication teams can use the information from a DMP to ensure that data retention and sharing activities are carried out properly. The best practice would be to require maintenance of the data management plan after the award and during the active phase of a study. This will help identify decisions that need to be made with respect to your data throughout your project.
Preserving data has the potential to lead to new and unforeseen discoveries, and avoid duplication of scientific studies that have already been carried out. A DMP should contain a level of detail that allows stakeholders (funders, project staff, and repository managers) to understand the reality of project activities.