Getting started with Data Management and Sharing Plans

  • Organize your research so it can be reproduced. Managing your data makes it easier to understand the details and procedures relating to your data and data collection throughout the lifecycle of the project.
  • Preserve and share your data to get recognition. The data you collect are the basis of your research. They are your unique contribution, and preserving them means that your work will be recognized by others. It also ensures that your work can support future research and facilitate new discoveries.
  • Satisfy funding requirements and Harvard research policies. The number of granting bodies requiring that data be preserved and shared is growing. A good data management plan will help you meet the requirements of your funding agency and address preservation, documentation and verification issues. It helps reviewers understand the characteristics of your data.

A data management plan, or DMP, (sometimes also called a data sharing plan) is a formal document that outlines what you will do with your data during and after a research project. Most researchers collect data with some form of plan in mind, but it's often inadequately documented and incomplete. Many data management issues can be handled easily or avoided entirely by planning ahead. With the right process and framework it doesn't take too long and can pay-off enormously in the long run.

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. If your DMP provides for your data to be openly shared, the data necessary for external replication of your research findings will be available to the research community for the long term.

Information contained in a data management plan describes your plan for addressing many aspects of working with data. A DMP need not be lengthy but it will typically address many relevant aspects of your data, including but not limited to:

  • 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 confidentially 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 preservation of access - What are your plans for preserving the data and providing long-term access?

The Dataverse Network, developed by Harvard IQSS, has published a Dataverse sample data management plan (DMP) along with background information which references policies more specific to Harvard.


DMPTool is an online tool available to help you create and share your data management plans to meet funder requirements and as a best practice for managing your data. DMPTool provides step-by-step guidance for creating your own DMP and includes templates and sample plans to help you address requirements specific to Harvard and your funding sources.

DMPTool overview from California Digital Library (1:30)

More info at

Using the Online DMP Tool and Sample DMPs

View a PDF of the Template

Watch the DMPTool Tutorial (5 minutes)

First, get familiar with DMPTool:

  1. Go to
  2. Click “Sign in” in the top right-hand corner
  3. Choose Option 1: If your institution is affiliated with DMPTool by clicking “Your institution”
  4. Select “Harvard University” from the list of participating institutions and click “Go”
  5. Enter your Harvard Key credentials when prompted
  6. You should be successfully signed into DMPTool

Next, create a new plan with the Harvard Template:

  1. Click “Create plan” from the top menu
  2. Enter a project title for the research project you are planning
  3. Confirm “Harvard University” is the primary research organization
  4. Select the check box for “No funder associated with this plan or my funder is not listed”
  5. Choose the Harvard DMP Template you would like to us.

Sample Data Management Plans with Qualitative Data

Data Repositories

Funder requirements may require use of specific repositories for sharing and/or archiving your research data. Sharing research data by publishing it to a repository can also lead to further reuse and discoverability. See the DMPTool and check with your funder to confirm the suitability of a particular repository.

Harvard Dataverse – openly available to researchers worldwide from all disciplines to deposit, publish and share research data and increase scholarly recognition. Dataverse gives a researcher:

  • A formal citation to your data files, with a persistent identifier
  • Credit and full control of your data
  • Your own branding for your dataverse
  • Professional backups of your data
  • A way to make your work more visible and searchable


Other Data Repositories