All ESRC grant applicants planning to create data during their research have to include a data management plan with their application, as an attachment to the Je-S form.
A data management plan helps to decide how research data will be managed throughout the research cycle and will be available for sharing afterwards. Most research data can be successfully archived and shared.
ESRC expects award holders to consider all issues related to confidentiality, ethics, security and copyright before initiating the research. Any challenges to data sharing (e.g. copyright or data confidentiality) should be critically considered in a plan, with possible solutions discussed to optimise data sharing.
A data management plan includes the following topics.
Assessment of existing data
When creating new data sources, explain why existing data sources can not be reused. If purchasing or reusing existing data sources, explain whether issues such as copyright and IPR have been addressed to ensure that the data can be shared i.e. explain how you plan to deal with permissions to share data you have created which is derived from data which you do not own.
Data sources that can be consulted are:
Information on new data
Give a brief description of new data which you envisage creating. This information should include how the data will be collected (in line with the proposed research methods), their format (e.g. SPSS, Open Document Format, tab-delimited format, MS Excel), and how they will be documented.
Using standardised and interchangeable data formats ensures the long-term usability of data. Clear and detailed data descriptions and annotation, together with user-friendly accompanying documentation on methods and contextual information, makes data easy to understand and interpret and therefore shareable and with long-lasting usability.
Quality assurance of data
Quality control of data is an integral part of a research process. Describe the procedures for quality assurance that will be carried out on the data collected at the time of data collection, data entry, digitisation and data checking.
For example this could be:
Back-up and security of data
Describe the data back-up procedures that you will adopt to ensure the data and metadata are securely stored during the lifetime of the project. You may need to discuss your institution's policy on back-ups. If your data is sensitive (e.g. detailed personal data) you should discuss appropriate security measures which you will be taking.
The methods of version control of data files should also be stated. Version control includes making sure that if the information in one file is altered, the related information in other files is also adapted, as well as keeping track of versions of data files and their locations.
Expected difficulties in data sharing
If you expect obstacles to sharing your data, explain which and the possible measures you can apply to overcome them. If ethical issues could cause difficulties in data sharing explain your strategies for dealing with these issues in the relevant section of the Je-S form, e.g. discussing archiving with interviewees or anonymising data. Refer to the requirements of the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics.
Research data - even sensitive and confidential data - can be shared ethically and legally if you pay attention, from the beginning of research, to three important aspects:
For detailed guidance see:
Copyright/Intellectual Property Right
State who will own the copyright and IPR of any new data that you will generate.
Indicate who within your research team will be responsible for data management, metadata production, dealing with quality issues and the final delivery of data for sharing or archiving. Provide this information within the Staff Duties section in the Je-S form and where appropriate in the Justification of Resources. If several people will be responsible state their roles and responsibilities in the relevant section of the Je-S form. For collaborative projects explain the co-ordination of data management responsibilities across partners in your Data Management Plan.
Preparation of data for sharing and archiving
Outline your plans for preparing and documenting data for sharing and archiving (unless otherwise agreed). Identify any additional plans for data sharing. A crucial part of making data user-friendly, shareable and with long-lasting usability is to ensure they can be understood and interpreted by other users. This requires clear and detailed data description, annotation and contextual information.
If you have a specific query relating to data management planning for your ESRC application or award, get in touch.
Examples of data management plans
Available from the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (Relu) data management planning resources.
The ESRC Research data policy states that research data created as a result of ESRC-funded research should be openly available to the scientific community to the maximum extent possible, through long-term preservation and high quality data management.
ESRC requires a data management plan for all research award applications where new data are being created. Such a plan will promote a structured approach to managing data throughout the research lifecycle, with research data ready for depositing and sharing afterwards. We provide guidance on research data management planning.
ESRC has a longstanding arrangement with the UK Data Archive as a place of deposit for research data, with award holders required to offer data resulting from their research grants via the UK Data Service. We enable data reuse by preserving data and making them available to the research and teaching communities.
ESRC research centres should get in touch when they want to deposit their research data.
Research centres often manage multiple datasets at different stages of the research process. Our data inventory template can be used to keep track of your centre's data assets and to coordinate future data deposits.
We have developed specific data management and sharing guidance for centres and collaborative research.
If you would like us to visit your research centre to discuss data managing and archiving issues in detail, contact the Research Data Management team.
We also run regular training workshops covering managing and sharing research data.