Data management plans

What are data management plans?

Data management plans are structured documents, which incorporate information on data management and data sharing. Since data management plans aim to facilitate the conduct of a study and clarify organizational or legal issues in advance, a data management plan should be drawn up in the early planning phase of your research project. Your institution’s or funding agency’s policies or guidance (if applicable) may serve as starting point. For example, Bielefeld University requires its researchers to provide data management plans for all data intensive research projects and offers a tool to create these Data Management Plans. Further information on data management requirements of funding agencies can be retrieved from the knowledge base’s section on funding agencies. Additionally, scientific organizations, state politics or journals may have adopted policies on research data which apply to your project. More information on policies can be retrieved from the knowledge base’s section on policies.

Data management plans should not solely be perceived as a burden. This point of view neglects advantages that arise in later stages of the project, because data management plans eliminate potential problems at an early stage. Additionally, writing a data management plan may facilitate data analysis, drawing up manuscripts or sharing data. Therefore, time savings often occur at the end of a project which is especially important because resources tend to be lower at these later project stages.

What information should your data management plan contain?

Typical sections of a data management plan, which is subdivided in the three areas before data collection, during data collection and after data collection, are:

  • Before data collection:
    • Background of the research project
    • Compilation of specific guidelines, recommendations, legal aspects, license contracts
    • Clarification of roles and responsibilities
    • Search and evaluation of already existing data
    • Planning of the data collection procedure
    • Costing for data management and data sharing
    • Legal aspects regarding data protection prior to data collection – formulation of the informed consent
  • During the data collection:
    • Documentation of research data and the data collection process
    • Data type and format
    • Organization of data files, versioning
    • Quality assurance of data and metadata
    • Backups, integrity of data, access control and data storage
  • After the data collection:
    • Long-term preservation
    • Consideration of legal aspects regarding data protection and copyright
    • Data sharing


DataWiz provides its own planning tool which connects data management planning with data documentation and, therefore, avoids redundant efforts in the data management process. More information on this tool is available in our User Guide, whereas web-based data management tools of other providers are introduced in the knowledge base’s section about tools.

Further Resources

MANTRA  is a free interactive online course on managing data. Its different online units offer information about key terms, terminology and best practice in research data management.