Write an effective data management plan

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Write an effective data management plan − Last minute tips for Academy applicants

In the past years funders have started to request a data management plan (DMP) along with the actual research plan when applying for funding. This has obviously risen the awareness of data management and that DMP is actually a useful document, which addresses the whole life cycle of the data used in the project.

This year, based on feedback from the applicants, the Academy of Finland made a change regarding DMPs and incorporated some relevant data management questions into the research plan. Only researchers who receive a positive funding decision must submit the actual DMP within eight weeks of the funding decision.

What should be now taken into account in the research plan about data management? Below are some tips and things to consider when filling out the application.

1. Tips for storing research data

Describe where data will be stored and how backups are taken care of during the research project. Choose a storage that is safe enough for the data. It is recommended to use home organization IT services, which usually are automatically backed up.

CSC also offers storing solutions free of charge for academic research in Finnish universities and in state research institutes. There are different solutions available for data that is still analysed and data that is static. If you work with sensitive data, check out specific services offered.

Storing data on personal computers not linked to your organisation's IT services, stand alone hard drives or USB sticks are not recommended due to unnecessary risk of losing data and poor data protection.

2. Tips for ethical and legal issues

The Academy of Finland expects that the applicants’ sites of research ensure that their researchers’ projects comply with the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity’s RCR guidelines (Responsible Conduct of Research and Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct in Finland). This means that the site of research will also be accountable for the projects’ compliance with ethical rules, regulations and recommendations as well as the rules on the processing of personal data and other applicable laws. 

Address that both ethical and legal issues are taken into consideration in your project and make sure you have all the necessary ethical permits and other research permits in place. If you work with personal data, state it clearly. Mention, if you already received ethical approval and you will have informed consents for sharing or preserving the data. Also tell how the data will be processed safely (e.g. anonymized, pseudonymized) or whether encryption will be used.  Describe how you manage access to the data.

Legal issues to tackle: Explain who owns the data and can for example give access to it. It is important to mention that agreements will be done in time with all partners, especially if the project is part of a consortium. Also tell, if applicable, how intellectual property rights will be managed.

3. Tips for making data available after project

Explain where and when data is made available and discoverable for reuse. If (or more likely when) you work with various data types, you can open different parts of the data in several places. It is recommended to use data specific repositories if available over generic repositories or to use data journals. Many data repositories assign persistent identifiers (PIDs) to the data sets they host. This ensures that the data is always accessible, even if the online location of the dataset changes.

CSC’s new data management web pages have gathered opening and publishing services available for different research fields. Life science researchers can for example browse ELIXIR Databases for biomolecular sciences, where you can find specific repositories e.g. for nucleotide sequences, proteins and biological processes.

If you cannot open or publish your data, clearly explain why. Sensitive data for example should only be opened at specific platforms, where information security has been taken in consideration. Otherwise, if no secure repository exists, descriptive information of the data (descriptive metadata) can most likely be made available in public. We also have good news for researchers studying human genomes in Finland: CSC is launching Federated European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA) in 2021, which will provide secure data submission service to publish genomic data.

4. Budget for data management, should I also think about that?

In short, yes. Budget for data management is extremely important and with most funders, you can reserve budget for your data management costs. You should consider and estimate costs that can arise for example from:

- Storage and hardware: Do you have a huge amount of data that needs a lot of storing capacity? Basic options are usually offered free of charge or with minor costs from organization’s IT services, but tailor made solutions can get costly. You should also consider if software or licenses to them are needed.

CSC offers free of charge storing capacitycomputing platforms as well as licenses to many software. However, transferring data between different platforms and automating processes might take working time. 

- Staff time: Do you need an employee responsible for data management or does your project need help from a lawyer with agreements or similar?

- Costs for preparing data for deposition and repository charges: Do you need to buy services such as sequencing DNA or transcribing speech to text? Additionally, repositories might have deposition charges, and hence, you these should be taken into account in the budget.


Make use of support and contact your own organisation's data support services to get more advice! The site of research commits to ensure that the data management plan can be implemented at the site of research, and that the measures to be taken comply with good data management practice.

Good luck with your application!

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Siiri Fuchs

The writer works with data management at CSC.