Data Management Plans

Who should plan?
All researchers, including postgraduate students, are encouraged to have a Data Management Plan in place — and thus fully consider the management of their research data — before the start of a research project. This plan is a living document that will change and grow as your research projects progresses. Your inital plan could be very concise.

According to the University’s research data management policy a Data Management Plan is compulsory for all publicly-funded research that is conducted at the University. It is considered best practice for all other research.

In addition, funding bodies are increasingly requiring Data Management Plans from their grant-holders at the bid-preparation stage. Many research funders, including all UK Research Councils and the European Commission, have research data policies that specify their expectation of how grant holders will manage, preserve and share their data.

Why should I plan?
Some of the benefits of planning the management and sharing of your research data as early as possible include that it helps you to

  • identify issues and strategies early in your research project
    • Under the new GDPR legislation, when gaining individual consent from participants for gathering your data you will now need to include a Privacy Notice with your ethical consent material. See GDPR Guidelines for Researchers for further information.
  • ensure that you have documented your compliance with institutional and funder policies and ethics approval requirements
  • make sure that your data remains useful and is stored securely during the lifetime of your project and beyond, so that you can find and understand your data when you need to use it, so that you avoid data loss or data corruption, so that there is continuity if project staff leave or new researchers join, and to avoid unnecessary duplication by re-collecting or re-working data
  • think about data sharing and reuse opportunities of your research data
What should I plan?
You plan for the entire life of your research data, especially

  • storing your data safely during your project
  • keeping it for the long-term and possibly sharing your data after your project
  • explaining it through careful documentation of your data, so that you and others can make sense of it

A typical research data management plan provides information on (a selection of) the following topics, depending on the funder’s requirements or your specific needs

  • data collection
  • documentation and metadata
  • ethics and legal compliance
  • storage and backup
  • selection and preservation
  • data sharing
  • responibilities and resources

The Digital Curation Centre has produced an extensive Checklist for a Data Management Plan with all topics that a data management plan could (but not necessarily should) contain.

If you are developing software, then writing a Software Management Plan may be an option to ensure your software is accessible and reusable in the short, medium and long term. A template for a Software Management Plan has been developed by the Software Sustainability Institute.

General Advice

General advice
The general advice for DMPs (given in this video by Peter Dukes of the MRC) is to keep it ‘specific’ as well as ‘simple and short’. For some projects where data sharing is not on the agenda, a quarter of a page may be enough. For other projects, a statement of up to 2 pages is generally sufficient.

If you are using DMPOnline to write your plan, the tool will indicate when you have reached a length that is generally considered to be sufficient for a DMP that is part of a funding application.

UKRI applications

If you are applying for UKRI funding the University of Bristol has detailed guidance for each of the seven UKRI (formerly RCUK) funding agencies.

To complete your data management plan you will need to add details of data security measures you are taking and provide links to key policies. For a full list of answers to the questions and policy links see UKRI-data-security-questions

Using a template to write your plan

The templates ask questions which relate to the areas your plan should cover, and give guidance on how to answer the questions.

If you are doing a staff project, you can use this template

If you are doing a doctoral / Masters by Research project, you can use this template

If your project is funded, check with the funder about their DMP requirements, including whether they provide a specific form for the DMP

Using DMPOnline to write your plan

The Digital Curation Centre has developed an online data management planning tool, DMPOnline. DMPOnline contains

  • templates for each major research funder that requires a data management plan as part of a funding application
  • a generic SHU template for all other research conducted at Sheffield Hallam University
  • a generic SHU template for research students
  • SHU specific guidance that will help you to fill out the form
  • suggested answers for certain questions for you to copy and paste
  • example answers taken from previous data management plans written by SHU researchers

How to get started

If you have never used DMPOnline before, you should first create an account. You can link your DMPOnline account to your SHU credentials, so that you can always log into DMPOnline using your normal SHU username and password. Simply follow these steps:

  • Go to
  • Sign up. You will be asked to fill out a short form to create your DMPOnline account. This includes your email address and any password
  • You will be sent a confirmation email with a link that you will have to click in order to activate your account
  • That’s it. You’re ready to go!

How to create a new plan

  • Go to and sign in
  • Click on ‘Create plan’
  • Give your plan a title
  • Select your funder or tick the ‘No funder associated with this plan or my funder is not listed’ box
  • If you have ticked the ‘No funder…’ box, select the template from the list offered: SHU template or SHU doctoral template as appropriate.
    • if you have entered a funder, DMP should provide you with an appropriate template


How to share your plan with others

Once finished, you can share your plan with others, and download (‘export’) it as a pdf or Word document (docx).

You are asked to attach your Data Management Plan to your ethics application. Your plan will be used to identify the support you require, and to make sure that sufficient storage and archival space will be available when you need it.

Examples of data management plans
More information
Informative videos from MRC