Research Data Management

Research Data Management (RDM) describes the collection, organization, storage, preservation, and sharing of data - whether quantitative or qualitative - used in a research project. In other words, RDM is a planning and implementation process that spans the research data lifecycle in order to ensure effective and responsible data-driven research.

RDM lifecycle: Creation, Analysis, Distribution & Use, Evaluate for Retention, Long-Term Storage & Archiving, Access Re-Use & Repurpose, and Storage & Maintenance

Detailed information on RDM can be found at the following links:

RDM @ Harvard

Many resources exist across Harvard to help you with RDM in your projects.

  • Harvard Library's Research Data Management Program (HLRDM) advises researchers and connects you to resources spanning the research data lifecycle. The program offers online educational tools, such as video tutorials, case studies, an electronic lab notebook guide, background literature, and slides from past presentations and classes.
  • Research Data Management @ Harvard provides information and resources to help you manage research data through all stages of the data lifecycle:
    • Planning Data Management
    • Data Acquisition and Collection
    • Storage, Security and Analysis
    • Dissemination and Preservation
  • If you are working on grant- or contract-funded research, you will likely have to create and/or maintain a data management plan. Harvard affiliates have access to the DMPTool, a widely used data management plan creation tool that can help ensure that you meet your funder's requirements. 

Data Security

A critical issue in RDM is data security, particularly if the research produced depends in whole or in part on confidential and/or sensitive data. Though measures to ensure data security tend to be most visible during storage, they are important to keep in mind at all stages in the RDM lifecycle.

At Harvard, data security is governed by the University-wide Harvard Research Data Security Policy (HRDSP). It follows the Policy Statements of the Harvard Information Security Policy while providing additional guidance specific to RDM. The HRDSP describes the roles and responsibilities of all researchers at Harvard, and outlines protocol around the handling of particular types of data. Researchers seeking support on compliance with the updated HRDSP - rolled out on July 15, 2020 - should consult the Research Data Safety Knet page (Harvard Key login).

Fundamental to the HRDSP is the classification of data into different risk levels, reflecting the basic principle that more exacting security requirements must be implemented as the risk associated with the research data increases. At Harvard, there are five levels of data security classification:

  • Level 1: Non-confidential research information
  • Level 2: Benign information to be held confidentially
  • Level 3: Sensitive or confidential information
  • Level 4: Very sensitive information
  • Level 5: Extremely sensitive information

These levels are listed in further detail in the

Additional resources related to data security at Harvard include:

Data Security and Data Management for Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE)

  1. Review the training on Data Safety and PAE Writers. Slides and recording are available on KNet, your Canvas page for your PAC Seminar, and here:
    1. Slide deck
    2. Zoom recording
  2. If you are working with sensitive or confidential data, or required to have a data use agreement (DUA), submit a Data Safety review.
    1. Visit the data-security-levels-research-data-examples for more information on Data Security Levels and sensitivity
    2. Submit a Data Safety review using the Annotated Data Safety Form for guidance on what to include in the various fields of the Smart Form.
    3. Take the Harvard Research Data Security Training Course on the Harvard Training Portal. Save the certificate (this will be uploaded into your Data Safety submission)
    4. Reach out to with any questions.
  3. Visti the PAE KNet site and Data Management and Safety for PAE Writers on KNet for other important Data Safety, DUA and PAE General Data Processing Regulation (GDPR) guidance, consent form and script, and resources.

HKS PAE Data Safety Contact

  • Megan Potterbusch, Research Data Steward, Library & Research Services
  • James Adams, Manager of Research & Data Services, Library & Research Services
  • Christina Sirois, Executive Director, Library & Research Services

Help with data safety: Email

IT help to configure personal device for DLS 3 data: Email

Read about bringing personal computers (or devices) into compliance with DSL3 requirements under the Harvard Enterprise Info Security Policy: (click Devices tab). This site has steps to take to meet security guidance: