A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

by Kerry Hope

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

Wise words above from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and very relevant to research when planning a project…

The Research Data Management team at Exeter are currently holding a series of lightning talks online that I would recommend to all research fellows who are looking to add some structure to their projects. The latest talk, on data management plans, took only 10 minutes, but Research Data Officer, Chris Tibbs, gave some extremely helpful advice and valuable sources of information which I have summarised below.

So what is a data management plan? This is a living document which is a basic statement describing:

  • What data will be collected/created (i.e. format, volume, types) and how?
  • How will data be documented and described?
  • How will data ethics and intellectual property be managed?
  • Plans for sharing data and access
  • Strategy for long term data preservation

The benefits of developing a data management plan include:

  • Good quality data = good quality research
  • Help protect data from loss, destruction and corruption
  • Ensures data remains accurate and reliable
  • Increased research productivity
  • Enables compliance with ethical codes, data protection laws, journal requirements, and funder and institutional policies

A data management plan will help you navigate a project and avoid problems as the project progresses.

It will support the life-cycle of the project through the following stages:

  • Project design
  • Data collection
  • Analysis
  • Management and storage
  • Preservation and sharing
  • Discovery, re-use and citations

A data management plan should make sure that the life-span of the research data is longer than the project that creates it.

Now, don’t despair at what may seem like yet another task on your to-do list. The Research Data Management team have a very handy web-based tool called DMP Online which has data management plan templates for all the major funders (including Wellcome, MRC, EPSRC and a UOE template for those who are not externally funded).

DMP Online breaks the plan into bitesize sections, offering guidance and suggestions along the way. It has a checklist, as well as example plans to show the type of content and level of detail required. You can access this with your University of Exeter single sign-on credentials. Other benefits of DMP Online include:

  • Allows for collaboration with access for multiple users
  • You can create, store and update multiple versions of a data management plan
  • It ensures you meet data-related requirements from funders and institutions
  • Offers tailored guidance on best practice, plus helpful contacts
  • Enables you to request feedback on a data management plan
  • You can customise, export and share a DMP in various formats to facilitate ongoing communications

If you would like any further advice or information regarding data management planning, please contact Chris and the team via email: or visit their support pages here.

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