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Data Management Plan – why it’s important for your ITN and ESRs

29th January 2021 at 10:56 am

Has your ITN recently started and you need to prepare a Data Management Plan? Is your ITN ongoing and you would like for your ESRs to get to grips with the essentials of data management? If yes, this blog post is written especially for you.

With the start of this year several among the 147 successful ITNs funded in the last H2020 MSCA-ITN call have also initiated their first activities, kicking-off their projects or preparing to do so soon. As these projects start running and upcoming deadlines are discussed between one remote meeting and another, a thought may also go to the Deliverables already due in the first half-year. For those projects who participate in the EC’s Open Research Data Pilot (ORDP or ORD pilot), preparing a Data Management Plan (DMP) is, or at least should be, a top priority.

Creating and maintaining a DMP, as well as providing Open Access to research data are the two main pillars of the ORD pilot. Indeed, preparing a DMP within month six of the project and keeping it up to date is a requirement, and is highly recommended for those who chose to opt-out. Alongside the DMP, the other key requirements for ORD pilot participants are to: i) deposit the project’s data in a data repository; ii) ensure third parties can freely access, mine, exploit, reproduce and disseminate the data; iii) provide related information and identify (or provide) the tools needed to use the raw data to validate the research. Provisions made to abide to such requirements should be described in the DMP itself. But let’s set down the basics.

What is a DMP?

Within the context of H2020, a DMP is a living document (i.e. to be updated throughout the project) that describes the data management life cycle of the data and metadata collected, processed and/or generated by a H2020 project. A DMP should describe what constitutes data and metadata in the project, the key datasets that will be used, collected and/or generated and how such data and metadata will be made findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (i.e. follow the FAIR principles) throughout the project’s duration and beyond. Though this may sound a bit abstract, there is of course an EC template, with a series of specific points and questions to address in a H2020 project DMP.

Having a first DMP ready by month six, for most ITNs means before many of the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) have been recruited and any data collection has started. Although preparing a DMP so early on may seem unnecessary and perhaps even daunting, spending time on it at the start is not only important to fulfil an EC requirement, but it also sets the project up for a more successful and efficient progress in its later stages, greatly benefitting ESRs, supervisors, all partners involved and external stakeholders alike.

What are the benefits of having a DMP?

There is a reason, indeed many, for why data management planning is a principle of best practice in research data management and essential for the success and effectiveness of research projects. Planning mitigates many problems, the most common ones being loss of data, violation of individuals’ privacy, inadequate licensing or data protection, and inappropriate use of data. Avoiding these problems, along with ensuring that the project’s data can be easily retrievable, reusable and openly available, will not only improve the workflow efficiency of everyone involved in the project, but will also lead to more citations and enhance the credibility of the project and its researchers.

What’s in it if for the ESRs?

Having a well-structured and updated DMP, and being made aware of it, will benefit the ESRs immensely. Being the key players in generating, processing and analysing data within an ITN, the ESR will be able to work much more efficiently if following the provisions set out in the DMP, maintaining data secure and well-organised across work packages and collaborations. In doing so, they will also (hopefully) come to appreciate the importance of data management without having to learn the hard way, gaining valuable skills for the smooth success of their projects and enhanced future employability.

What’s next?

To support you and help you master the DMP and other project management challenges, our PM2 trained team is ready to assist you, alleviating your workload. To ensure that the ESRs in your ITN are equipped with an essential set of data management knowledge and skills that will benefit them throughout their ITN experience, but also in their future job search and careers, we offer an ESR online training module in data management. Do you and your ESRs know the basics of data management, open science policies, and IPRs and exploitation? Test your knowledge with our data management quiz!

Data Management Quiz
Which of these statements defines data?
Multiple choice
Which phases of the research lifecycle should you consider when thinking about data management?
Multiple choice
How should the research data of a H2020 project be shared?
Single choice
In principle, which form of IPR provides the longest protection?
Single choice

Most recently, we supported the projects CLASSY, FRINGE, HEAT-INSYDE and NanoCarb in successfully delivering their DMPs. In this era of data-intensive science, make data management a priority. We’re here to help.

Dr. Emily Rose Ciscato
Project Manager Communications

Géraldine Messmer

Géraldine Messmer
Project Associate Communications