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

What is a Data Management Plan? 

data management plan, or DMP, is a formal document that outlines what you will do with your data during and after a research project. Many funding agencies, especially government funding 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 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 doing research sometimes requires you to shift gears and revise your intended path. Your DMP is a living document that you may need to alter as the course of your research changes. Remember, any time your research plans change, you should review your DMP to ensure that it still 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.

Because 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, please schedule a 1-1 consultation.

  • 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?
  • Contextual details (metadata): How will you document and describe your data?
  • Storage, backup, and security: How and where will you store and secure your data? 
  • Provisions for protection/privacy: What privacy and confidentiality issues must you address?
  • Policies for re-use: How may other researchers use your data?
  • Access and sharing: How will you provide access to your data by other researchers? How will others discover your data?
  • Archiving and providing access: What are your plans for preserving the data and providing long-term access?
  • Roles and plan oversight: Who will be responsible for aspects of data management throughout the project, and what resources are required for implementation?

Example DMPs

Write a DMP

DMPTool logoIt 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.