Data management made simple

Publié le 16 mars 2018, par Thérèse Hameau

Keeping your research data freely available is crucial for open science — and your funding could depend on it.

When Marjorie Etique learnt that she had to create a data-management plan for her next research project, she was not sure exactly what to do.

The soil chemist, a postdoc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, studies the interaction of trace elements in sediments and water. While preparing a grant proposal for the Swiss National Science Foundation last October, she learnt of the funder’s new data rules. These require applicants to provide a written plan for the organization and long-term storage of their research data, to help minimize the risk of data loss and provide guidance for other scientists on how to use the data in the future.


What are data-management plans ?

A data-management plan explains how researchers will handle their data during and after a project, and encompasses creating, sharing and preserving research data of any type, including text, spreadsheets, images, recordings, models, algorithms and software. [...]


Who needs them ?

Data management is one example of the way in which public research sponsors and research institutions are implementing ‘open science’, the push to make scientific research and data freely accessible. Many funding agencies have made data-management plans mandatory for grant applicants in the past decade or so. All US federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, have such policies. [...]


Where can I get help ?

The University of California Curation Center, part of the CDL, and the Digital Curation Centre in Edinburgh, UK, provide examples of data-management plans written by researchers from various fields. The centres also provide online tools for writing data-management plans that meet the demands of most funding organizations in both countries. Versions of the tools are also available for scientists in several other European countries, as well as for those in Australia, Canada and South Africa. [...]


Do the plans vary across disciplines ?

Data-management demands vary widely, and different research communities (and funders) have different customs and practices. The plans needed for collaborative particle physics, where powerful accelerator facilities generate huge volumes of experimental data, look very different from those used in smaller research projects, such as Etique’s. [...]


Will they improve my science ?

Access to research data preserves the rights of researchers anywhere to reach independent conclusions about published science. So it’s a good idea for scientists to keep track of their data in case other researchers fail to reproduce the same results, says Jones, or in case legal or ethical problems arise after a paper is published. But not all data types and records can be generously disclosed and freely shared. [...]