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Data Management

Why manage data?

  • 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.

What is a data management plan?

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.

What do I include in a DMP?

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 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?

Sample DMPs

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

Harvard Library's role in data management

Harvard Library is a point of contact for Harvard-affiliated researchers University-wide seeking data management support and services. Harvard Library works collaboratively with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, HUIT Information Security, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, FAS Research Administration Services and other offices to provide assistance with data management, curation, sharing and archiving; and to support compliance with HU policies for data retention and security.