Skip main navigation

Data management plans

Developing a data management plan (DMP) is the first step to ensure good and safe data handling throughout the research process.
People placing post-it notes on the floor.

Developing a data management plan (DMP) is the first step to ensure good and safe data handling throughout the research process.

A DMP should be thought of as a living document. In the initial phases, it helps structure your thoughts and plan what data to capture. After data capture, it should be updated to reflect what you did and how to store your data. At the end of the project, it will be used to document the process in such a way that others may use the data. As such, a DMP is meant to stimulate researchers to think about optimal handling, organizing, documenting, and storing of their data.

Why make a DMP?

There are several reasons for making a DMP:

  • Compliance: Your local institution, funding organization, and the ethical board may require that you develop a data management plan.
  • Planning: While it takes a little time to develop, a DMP may save time in the end by systematically documenting what you are doing. When working with a time-intensive method such as motion capture, it is useful to identify early-stage issues and time-dependent requirements.
  • Impact: Planning for sharing your data may optimize the impact and visibility of your research.
  • Collaboration: A DMP encourages improvement and validation of research methods.
  • Longevity: If you win the lottery, someone else will be able to continue your research.

What is included in a DMP?

There are many ways to develop a DMP. Often, six main topics are covered, as seen in the graphic below. The six main topics covered in a data management plan.

  • Responsibility: Who will be responsible for managing the data during and after the project, and what resources are needed.
  • Documentation: How will you ensure that the data is well organized and adequately documented.
  • Description: The type and size of data to be generated/used.
  • Ethical and Legal: How to ensure that the data is compatible with ethical and legal requirements.
  • Storage: Where the data is to be stored and backed up during the lifetime of the project.
  • Sharing and Preservation: How to save and make the data accessible to others in the long term.

How to get started?

While you can make your own, it is best to use a template when writing a DMP. Several web-based DMP tools are currently available. They greatly facilitate the process by providing a set of questions to be answered.

There are many templates to choose from that will aid in the process of creating a data management plan. Check with your institution, funder, or ethics board for any suggested DMP tools. Here are some suggestions:

Remember, data management should not be a bureaucratic burden but a useful means of support when planning and conducting a research project. Make sure to tailor it to your specific project.

This article is from the free online

Motion Capture: The Art of Studying Human Activity

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education