3.2 Data Management Planning

The first step to good data management, is planning

3.2.1 Data Lifecycle

We can think of data as having a lifecycle. It’s easy to forget the planning stage and want to just jump right in to collecting data, and often it seems less time consuming to make things up as you go along. But! Planning will ultimately save you time down the road and keep things running smoothly.

3.2.2 Planning

It’s a good idea think through your research question and what that means for the kind of data you will collect, where you still store that data in the short and long term, who is responsible for data collection and data assurance, and any ethical or privacy considerations regarding your data. The planning stage gives you a chance to think through your research data workflow and make sure you are assigning responsibility to make sure data is collected responsibly and carefully.

3.2.3 Data Management Plans (DMP’s)

A good place to begin is by developing a data management plan. (you might be required to do this by your funder). A DMP is usually a short document that will help you think through the questions about how your data will be handled and form a strategy you can use throughout the research process. Now, you may be concerned that having a plan is too inflexible, given the way research needs may need to be adjusted over the course of the project. But really the DMP is a living document. If the plan needs to change, a DMP provides a place where you can document those changes.

Luckily, there is a great tool to help you craft your DMP, called helpfully enough– the DMPTool. This provides web-based templates (based on funder requirements) that allow you to input the data management plan for your project.

The DMPTool is free, but you will need to sign up for an account, using OPTION 1 in the drop down menu when you try to sign in, because UMB has an institutional membership with DMPTool.

Once you are signed in you can select from a number of templates based on requirements of particular funding agencies. Here you can see the NIH basic template. You are provided with a form to answer the required questions, along with guidance on the sidebar to help you think through the answers. The templates are modified over time to respond to changes in requirements. So, as new requirements emerge, the forms change. You can also create your own template. You can request feedback on your plan from me and J-P within DMPTool.

3.2.4 Data Management Workflows

Another important thing to think through is who on a team is responsible for data management… Everyone has some responsibility, which can end up meaning that NO ONE feels responsible!

Whenever possible, assign one person to be responsible for

  • Making sure naming conventions are adhered to
  • That a minimum level of documentation is being recorded
  • Version controls are followed
  • Data is always being backed up.