A data management plan grows out of an understanding of how data should be collected, normalized, processed, analyzed, preserved, used and re-used over their lifetime. Data management plans are often required by grant funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation. A data management plan that is associated with a research study must include comprehensive information about the data such as the types of data, the metadata standards used, the policies for access and sharing, and the plans for archiving and preserving data so that it is accessible over time. Data management plans ensure that data will be properly documented and available for use by other researchers in the future. Librarians can assist researchers to formulate a data management plan based on strong foundational knowledge working with metadata, archiving, preservation, and scholarly communication.
For librarians, it is important to know what types of information are needed to be included when writing a data management plan for faculty, researchers or students. According to the requirements from the National Science Foundation Data Management Plan, the information needed to complete a data management plan may include:
- The types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of a project;
- The standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
- Policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
- Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
- Plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.
The librarian can address these requirements by completing a series of data interviews with the researcher – similar to a traditional reference interview. Information gathered from these interviews will help to inform the librarian as to the proper organization and management of the data that has been generated by the user. Data can then be arranged in a logical manner by subject, experiment or other organizational format discussed with the data creator, and be stored for future use.
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