Data Management Plans as a Key to Effective Research Data Management

Stepping into the data-driven era, managing research data is crucial for ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and long-term usability of valuable research findings. When it comes to research data management, writing a Data Management Plan (DMP) is recognized as the foundational act in implementing effective strategies to collect, organize, store, curate, and share research data throughout the research data lifecycle. 

A Data Management Plan is a living document that changes and grows as your research progresses. A well-crafted DMP not only helps you stay organized but also promotes transparency, reproducibility, and research integrity. It helps you to save time and effort to focus on your research when your data management strategies are already well planned and documented. 

Major components in a quality Data Management Plan 

A well-structured Data Management Plan encompasses several key components as suggested by the Digital Curation Center (DCC), a world-leading centre of expertise in digital information curation with a focus on building capacity, capability and skills for research data management. The major components are: 

  • Data Collection specifying the types and formats of data, as well as the methods and tools used for data collection 
  • Documentationincluding how the data will be named, structured, and versioned 
  • Ethical and Intellectual Property Right (IPR) compliancedescribing how you plan on managing ethical concerns in managing your collected data, e.g. data anonymization, formal consent agreements, access restrictions, etc. 
  • Storage and Back-upoutlining storage arrangements that ensure the availability and security of the data throughout the project’s lifecycle 
  • Preservationsetting-up the long-term preservation plans for the data, addressing issues such as data archiving, metadata standards, and data ownership and licensing 
  • Data Sharingindicating whether the data will be openly available or restricted and the mechanisms for sharing and access 
  • Roles and responsibilitiesaddressing who will be responsible for all data management activities stated in the above sections 

Data management at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) 

Since the implementation of the policy on management of research data and records at HKU in 2015, attention to data management planning has been growing among the HKU research community. In 2023, 694 DMPs were created via the DMPTool@HKUL by HKU researchers and research students; And a total of 3,800+ DMPs were created since its first introduction in 2018 (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1 – Data Management Plans created by HKU researchers and research postgraduate students in 2018-2023 

The statistics also showed that January and February were the peak months for DMP creation by HKU researchers and students. In the past 5 years, we recorded an average of 105 DMPs created per month in January and February. 

The Enhanced DMPTool@HKUL 

We are pleased to announce that the DMPTool@HKUL has now been upgraded with enhanced features. It could better support HKU researchers in collaborating with research project members in data management planning and sharing the plan with others. 

The DMPTool is a free and open-source application designed and developed by the University of California Curation Center (UC3) at the California Digital Library and other collaborators. The Libraries first introduced the DMPTool configurated specifically for HKU authors in 2018, aiming to provide customized guidance and template for HKU community members in DMP writing.