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FSP FAQs: Data Management Planning

Updated January 2017

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Note: Terms used in these FAQs will be referred to by their acronyms (in parentheses) as follows: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Survey Manual (SM), Instructional Memorandum (IM), Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), Fundamental Science Practices (FSP), Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Information Product Data System (IPDS), National Water Information System (NWIS), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Data Management Plan (DMP).


These frequently asked questions (FAQs) supplement SM 502.6. Additional guidance and information on data management planning for USGS data products is available at http://www.usgs.gov/datamanagement/plan.php.

Updates and additions to the FAQs will be posted as they occur (month/year). Questions about FSP policies and procedures that are not addressed here should be directed to the FSP Advisory Committee or a BAO in the OSQI.

  1. What are data management plans or DMPs and why do I need to create them?
  2. What information is included in a DMP?
  3. What is the relationship between a project work plan and a DMP?
  4. Where can I find some DMP examples?
  5. What tools are available to help me create my DMP?
  6. Can a Science Center-wide plan be leveraged for my project-specific DMP?
  7. What if I do not know all of the details of how my data will be managed?
  8. Who is responsible for ensuring that DMPs are developed and implemented for each project within a center or office?

1. What are data management plans or DMPs and why do I need to create them?
A DMP is a document that outlines the data management considerations of a given project. A DMP describes intended actions for acquiring, processing, analyzing, preserving, publishing/sharing, describing, managing quality, backing up, and securing USGS data holdings. The document describes where and how you will acquire data, what standards you will use, and how data will be handled and protected during and after the completion of the project. The DMP is created before the project begins, and is updated throughout the research process, as needed, to reflect the reality of project activities (SM 502.6). The USGS has a responsibility to steward its data to meet OMB open data requirement for managing Federal Government information as an asset throughout the lifecycle. USGS researchers must create DMPs to help meet this responsibility. This planning enables Bureau management to anticipate the need to provide infrastructure and other support for scientific data.

2. What information is included in a DMP?
A DMP includes information about the data and metadata standards to be used and intended actions for acquiring, processing, analyzing, preserving, publishing/sharing, describing, managing quality, backing up, and securing data holdings. The DMP captures the point of contact for the project and its data, and assigns roles to people who will be responsible for data management, updating the DMP, and generating metadata and other documentation. Descriptive information about the expected data input and output from the project is also important to include in the DMP, such as the estimated volume of the data and the format of the data and the accompanying metadata. With regard to length, the DMP should be as long as it needs to be to fully describe the data management activities on a given project. Once a project proposal has been accepted and the project is underway, the DMP is expected to be updated throughout the length of the project.

3. What is the relationship between a project work plan and a DMP?
The overall project work plan of every research project (as discussed in SM 502.2) must include a DMP. Project work plans are broad in scope and cover all aspects of a project including project purpose, significance, methodology, staffing, budget, timelines and deliverables. DMPs are focused on the data-related aspects of the project. Both project and data management plans are essential and should be maintained as project documents.

4. Where can I find some DMP examples?
DMP examples from various institutions can be found at https://dmptool.org/public_dmps. Additional examples and data management planning guidance can be found on the USGS Data Management Plans Web page.

5. What tools are available to help me create my DMP?
The USGS Data Management Web site provides guidance on developing DMPs and understanding data management best practices. The Data Management Planning Considerations Checklist can be used to help ensure that all issues that may affect your data have been addressed in your DMP. Additionally, the USGS has partnered with the DMPTool to develop a DMP template. The DMPTool is a free, Web-based application that is also used by several Federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The tool presents each section of a DMP and allows you to save, preview, and export your plans as well as share your DMPs with collaborators.

6. Can a Science Center-wide plan be leveraged for my project-specific DMP?
Yes. A number of centers have developed guidance for how their scientists should be managing their data. Any center-specific information on how data is managed should be considered when writing your DMP. Every project is unique and will have different data management requirements, however, so it is important that those project-specific details are captured in the DMP. No single, center-wide plan will be completely applicable for every project within a Science Center.

7. What if I do not know all of the details of how my data will be managed?
A data management plan is just that, a plan to get all of the various actors in your program or center thinking about and committed to data management responsibilities before a project begins. You may need to get data management input from the principal investigator, co-investigators, data collectors, data analysts, Information Technology (IT) staff, modelers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff, and metadata experts, as each party involved may bring certain expertise related to specific aspects of the plan. If data management details change, your DMP should be updated to reflect those changes.

8. Who is responsible for ensuring that DMPs are developed and implemented for each project within a center or office?
Science Center Directors or their designees ensure compliance with data management requirements for data produced in their centers or offices and consult with their ADs, RDs, Managers (program and project), scientists, and others on their staff as needed with regard to carrying out data management activities, including ensuring the development of data management plans. They also assign or ensure the assigning of data managers to oversee or steward the lifecycle activities of their respective data products (SM 502.6 ).

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2017