NSF Required Data Management Plan: What you need to know

Overview of the upcoming NSF proposal requirement aimed at facilitating the dissemination and sharing of research.


NSF Data Management Plan Web site: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/dmp.jsp

1. What is it?

Beginning January 18, 2011, the National Science Foundation will require a Data Management Plan (DMP) included with all new proposals. (This does not pertain to suppl. support to an existing award). This supplementary document, of no more than two pages, will describe how the proposal will conform to the NSF data sharing policy. The updated Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) Chapter II.C.2.j suggests things to include in your data plan. 

Important points:
  • A valid Data Management Plan may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed, as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification. 
  • Fastlane will not permit submission of a proposal that is missing a Data Management Plan.
  • The Data Management Plan will be reviewed as an integral part of the proposal, coming under Intellectual Merit or Broader Impacts or both, as appropriate for the scientific community of relevance.

2. What about the requirements already in place for my NSF Program?

Data management requirements and plans specific to NSF directorates and programs should be followed. If guidance specific to the program is not available, then the requirements above apply.

3. How is it being implemented?

NSF has long had a sharing of data requirement (Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter VI.D.4 Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results) that expects investigators to share with other researchers, "at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of the work." The updated requirement (Jan 2011) goes on to say, "Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing" and that NSF will implement these policies for dissemination and sharing of research results through:

    1. the proposal review process;
    2. award negotiations and conditions; and
    3. appropriate support and incentives for data cleanup, documentation, dissemination, storage and the like.

4. Concerns of public access to data
In many cases, the data type and disciplinary culture will determine the most appropriate place for sharing, ie. ICPSR for social science or survey response data or NODC for oceanographic data. However, not all research disciplines have established repositories for data. In the FAQ section of the DMP policy page, the following questions are posed:

There is no public database for my type of data. What can I do to provide data access?
[A.] Contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer for assistance in this situation."

My institution's policy is that the data and all supporting materials from all research are owned and must remain with the institution if I leave. How does this policy affect what I can say about data management and access?

[A.] Data maintenance and archiving by an institution is one avenue by which data preservation and access can be achieved. However, the data access plan must address the institutional strategy for providing access to relevant data and supporting materials.

3. What's being done to assist?

The University Libraries are developing ways to support research data sharing in general, and the NSF proposal requirement specifically, including:
  • New web site bringing together tools and resources for "Managing Your Data" https://www.lib.umn.edu/datamanagement
  • Workshops on data management. Since Jan 2009, we have offered a 1-hour long workshop on "Introduction to Data Management for Scientists and Engineers." Recorded version available online https://www.lib.umn.edu/datamanagement/data101
    • The workshops have been attended by mostly graduate students and from all academic schools (AHC, CLA, CSE, etc).
    • A version of this session was presented to CSE faculty who attended the Instruction Seminar earlier this spring.
  • Awareness. The University Libraries continue to provide leadership in the open access movement, and this includes all forms of scholarship, such as data. One example of "open data" advocacy was our participation in the 20-by-20 Pecha Kucha on "Open University" presented by OIT last April. Our presentation, "Open Data: Sharing Research Data for Greater Impact" is available at https://www.lib.umn.edu/datamanagement/opendata

5. What's Next?

  • We plan on expanding our training into a new workshop that goes through the DMP steps in response to the NSF grant requirement:

    • Creating a Data Management Plan for Your Grant Application: Overview of questions to consider when creating a data management plan with a focus on data preservation issues and tools for sharing your data, like repositories.
    • Next session: January 10, 2011 see the workshop registration page.https://www.lib.umn.edu/services/workshops/registration