Data Management Plans: Dead or Alive?
As many researchers and faculty are aware, the number of funding agencies requiring a mandated (dreaded) Data Management Plan (DPM) is growing. The question then gets asked, is a DMP a living document or can it be created once and then recycled over and over. Or worse, never again revisited and left to die. A properly created DMP is a living document. The DMP is a roadmap for how data is to be managed for the research group. As such, It is easily accessible and available. And the DMP should be reviewed at least once a year and any updates or changes be incorporated. So what are some of the changes can affect a DMP?
Graduation and New Personnel
Graduate and undergraduate students eventually do graduate. When they do, their role as assigned as a part of the DMP needs to be filled. The new students are no longer the “newbies” and have the experience to be able to take on more responsibilities. Now is a good time to review your DMP and update roles and responsibilities. Performing this review is important for post-docs.
As we know, advances in technology are always happening. And periodic refresh due to technology changes are (or should be) a part of the IT landscape. As those infrastructures as maintained by the university, college, or department change, a DMP should be updated to reflect those changes. Even small changes to hardware, software, or an IT service can disrupt workflows as outlined in your DMP. So take the time to review when infrastructure changes are announced.
Policies based on university standards probably will not change all that much, but when they do, you need to be sure that your DMP reflects those changes. Ownership, copyright and access of the data may change the methods and workflows of your DMP and not reflect those changes may cause problems further down the road.
Finally, researchers may have a change in focus or may begin collaborative work with other researchers outside their field. When this occurs, a DMP should be reviewed to see that it includes those best practices, procedures and policies that originate with other disciplines. Any differences or conflicting workflows should be addressed and well documented as to which of the practices will be implemented.
In the end, a good DMP is never a stagnate or complete document. It needs to be regular reviewed and updated. Doing so in an ordered and regular manner will make changes seem less overwhelming and easier to document. Time well spent now pays dividends.