The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued its Final NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing Plans (DMSP) intended to promote the management and sharing of scientific data generated from NIH-funded or conducted research. The policy requires submission of a Data Management and Sharing Plan at the time of grant application, effective January 25, 2023. See more under NIH Data Management and Sharing Plan.

What is a Data Management Plan?

A data management plan, or DMP, is a formal document that outlines how data will be handled during and after a research project. Many funding agencies, especially government sources, require a DMP as part of their application processes. Even if you are not seeking funding for your research, documenting a plan for your research data is a best practice and will help your data comply with Harvard's policies for responsible data management.

A DMP is a living document: Research is all about discovery, and the process of conducting research sometimes requires you to revise your intended path. Your DMP is a living document that you may need to alter to reflect changes in your research. Remember, any time your research plans change, you should review your DMP to ensure that it meets your needs.

Elements of a DMP

Funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have laid out specific criteria for what should be included in a data management plan.

As some funding agencies do not provide specific guidelines, below is a list of typical data management plan elements. You should review specific guidelines for data management planning from the funding agency you are working with. Elements of your DMP may be reused in your protocols and in the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and methodology descriptions.

If you would like assistance completing a data management plan for a grant proposal, see if you are eligible for Countway Library's Data Management Plan Review Service.

Types of data

What is the source of your data? In what formats are your data? Will your data be fixed, or will it change over time? How much data will your project produce?

See Collect & Create

Contextual details (metadata)

How will you document and describe your data?

See Documentation & Metadata

Storage, backup, and security

How and where will you store and secure your data?

See Store & Manage, Data Security, and Data Safety

Provisions for protection/privacy

What privacy and confidentiality issues must you address?

See Data Security, Data Safety, and Clinical Data

Policies for re-use

How may other researchers use your data?

See Share & Disseminate

Access and sharing

How will you provide access to your data by other researchers? How will others discover your data?

See Share & Disseminate and Access & Reuse

Archiving and providing access

What are your plans for preserving the data and providing long-term access?

See Evaluate & Archive

Roles and plan oversight

Who will be responsible for aspects of data management throughout the project, and what resources are required for implementation?

See Roles & Responsibilities

Example DMPs

Write a DMP

DMPTool logo with straplineIt can be helpful to use a tool like DMPTool to create high-quality DMPs that meet the requirements of their specific funding agency. As a partner institution, Harvard Affiliates can log in with their Harvard Key to access university-specific guidance and resources. Learn more about DMPTool.