A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a formal document that describes what will happen to your data over the course of the research project. A good DMP outlines and describes in detail all aspects of data management for the project including how collected data are to be organized, documented, stored, shared, and preserved.
Why should you have a DMP?
A growing number of funding agencies including, but not limited to, the National Institute of Health (NIH), The National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) require researchers to submit a DMP to meet funding requirements. The reasoning behind this is that a DMP assures funders that data will be accessible and usable now and in the future, as well as adding to the integrity of the data and overall project.
What should a DMP cover?
The depth and breadth of the information you include in your DMP will be specific to your project. Every DMP will be different because every research project is different. According to the NIH, recommended elements for any DMP include:
Funders have different requirements. For more information on requirements for different agencies, check out the DMPTool's funding agency templates. These templates are based on the specific requirements listed in funder policy documents and are maintained by DMPTool.
In addition to funding agencies having data management requirements, many individual journals have policies that require open access to data as a condition to publication. This list of Research Funder Requirements from MIT gives information on many agencies public access plans and their policies regarding publications and data.