Suomen Akatemia

High-quality data management plans support smooth launch of research projects

10 Nov 2021

In research, careful planning of data management facilitates open access to research data and reduces the risk of data loss. Rigorous data management is also an essential part of good scientific practice. Based on a study carried out by a team of open science specialists at the Academy of Finland, the data management plans in Academy Projects funded under the September 2020 call were prepared with due care.

Research data and scientific publications are among the most important outputs of research funded by the Academy of Finland. As a rule, research data produced with public funds must be made open access. The degrees of data openness may justifiably vary, ranging from fully open to strictly confidential.

At the application stage, all those applying for funding from the Academy of Finland are asked to briefly describe how their data will be managed (section 4.3 (Open science) of the research plan). A full data management plan is submitted after a positive funding decision. At the same time, the site of research confirms its commitment to that the data management plan can be implemented at the site and that the data management measures follow good data management practice.

Careful planning of data management facilitates open access to research data and reduces the risk of data loss. Rigorous data management is also an essential part of good scientific practice. The data management plan allows researchers to anticipate and manage complex ownership and user rights issues. Solid data management, archiving and open data practices also support the reuse of research data and increase the visibility and impact of the research project.

The data management plan should also be updated regularly during the course of the project to support the research throughout its lifecycle.

Thoroughly planned data management in Academy Projects funded from September 2020 call

A study coordinated by a team of open science specialists at the Academy of Finland examined the full data management plans of all Academy Projects funded from the September 2020 call. There were a total of 211 projects that were granted Academy Project funding. In the study, the team examined whether the data management plans respond to the questions and sub-questions in accordance with the Academy’s guidelines. The team also examined whether the answers were sufficiently precise in describing and clarifying matters related to data management. The guidelines published by a working group of the Tuuli network, which maintains Finland’s national data management guidelines, were used to support the examination (see Finnish DMP evaluation guidance + General Finnish DMP guidance).

The results of the study show that the majority of data management plans were written carefully and with due consideration. The plans helped the researchers launch their projects extremely well.

The purpose of the data management plan is to act as a document to be updated during the project, so a short plan covering all aspects is sufficient at the start of the project. However, the study also concludes that the length of approximately two pages instructed by the Academy is not enough for a data management plan that is useful and appropriate for the researcher and the site of research. Therefore, as of the September 2021 call, the full data management plan may be approximately three pages.

DMP supports research and improves its quality

The study prepared by the Academy shows that some data management plans were very narrow and that some of the questions were not answered at all. Researchers should remember that they can often turn to a data expert in their own organisation for help in writing the full data management plan. This possibility should be grasped immediately after the positive financing decision. It is also important to bear in mind that the data management plan is not written just to meet the requirements of the Academy. The plan helps the researchers themselves; it supports the implementation of the project and ensures the reliability and quality of the research data.

Data management plans often include clear descriptions of the research data, the quality assurance, the data storage during the project, ownership issues and matters related to information security. On the other hand, it seems that the start of the project is still too early a stage to consider which part of the data, for example, should be stored in the long term. It is also not always agreed who is responsible for managing the data or what additional resources are needed for managing them.

What are the next steps?

Researchers who have received funding from the Academy and their sites of research are responsible for managing the data until the end of the projects and beyond. In the future, we will carry out random reviews of full data management plans so that we can monitor the development of good data management practices and how they increasingly become part of the everyday lives of researchers and sites of research. A data management plan carefully prepared at project start-up supports the smooth implementation of the project, promotes the publication of results and makes data archiving easier.

Inquiries and more information

  • Aki Salo, Senior Science Adviser
  • Jyrki Hakapää, Senior Science Adviser
  • Harri Hautala, Science Adviser
  • Jussi Varkemaa, Science Adviser
  • Minna Räisänen, Science Adviser
  • Soile Kukkonen, Science Adviser
  • Henriikka Katila, Coordinator

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