Data Management Plan (DMP)

Data management is an integral part of sound scientific research.  It covers the description of data and metadata, their storage and long-term preservation, the designation of responsible persons, the handling of highly sensitive data, and the open access to and sharing of research data.

The FWO has made data management a key element of its policy for all support channels provided by the FWO. The FWO expects researchers to pay due attention to this dimension before, during and for at least five years after their research.

This page provides you with background information on data management and explains the procedure to be followed when applying for research funding and later when you receive such funding.

 International context

The European Commission has already started rolling out a DMP policy. A DMP is mandatory for all research projects under the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Other organisations and networks in Europe have also addressed this issue.

Science Europe, the umbrella organisation of 43 RFOs and RPOs in 27 European countries, of which the FWO is a founding member, has set up the Research Data working group. The FWO actively participates in this working group, which is now working on a Framework Document for Discipline Dependent Research Data Management. This document will contain the minimum requirements for a DMP. A guiding principle is that the further implementation of a DMP may vary from case to case and will be further developed from a bottom-up approach.

Data sharing is an issue in its own right, which is not inextricably linked to a data management policy. Such a policy does, however, have to consider the issue of data sharing and the modalities of such open access. In this respect, reference can be made to RECODE: Open access to data specific project policy recommendations for open access to research data.

The FWO: DMP regulations and procedure

Data management and those responsible for it

For the FWO, the emphasis is on long-term data preservation and management. The data are targeted to be preserved for a period of at least five years from the end of the research.  The DMP related questions in the application form are related to this central aspect.

Sound data management is required for all research supported by the FWO. It applies to data that are gathered, generated, used and reused during the course of the relevant research. Researchers are expected to describe, in a Data Management Plan (DMP), the type of data that relates to their research and how they intend to preserve it (including all associated essential aspects).

While sound data management is a duty for all researchers receiving FWO funding, the mandatory DMP will be introduced gradually.  Supervisors of projects for fundamental and strategic basic research will be the first who must meet this requirement as from the 2018 application round. The experience thus gained will enable them to better guide junior researchers (predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows) when they too must meet the DMP requirement as from the 2020 application round. 

The questionnaire in the application form

The ‘Data Management Plan’ section of the application form contains the following five questions to be answered by the applicant:

  1. Describe the datatypes (surveys, sequences, manuscripts, objects, … ) the research will collect and/or generate and /or (re)use. (max. 700 characters)
  2. Are the following provisions in place in order to preserve the data for at least 5 years after the end of the research? Please motivate your answer. (max. 700 characters)
    1. Designation of responsible person (if already designated, please fill in his/her name)
    2. Storage capacity/repository
      1. During the research
      2. After the research
  3. Is there a reason why you wish to deviate from the principle of preservation of data and of the minimum preservation term of 5 years? (max. 700 characters)
  4. If issues concerning research data are indicated in the ethics questionnaire of this application form, will those data require specific security measures; if yes, can they be put in place? (max. 700 characters)
  5. Are there other issues related to the data management you think relevant to mention? (max. 700 characters)

These questions and the answers to them are part of the application file to be submitted to the evaluators.  Applicants are not expected at this stage to present a detailed plan of approach, but rather to provide essential but concise information that can later be developed into a DMP.

The evaluation

The evaluation panels and external referees (for programmes with an external peer review) who evaluate the application, will also look into this issue.  The DMP as such is not a criterion for approval or rejection of an application.  Rather, this questionnaire is to be used in the same way as that relating to ethical advice: the panel may make comments or set additional requirements, which the researcher is deemed to comply with, but will not touch upon the scientific merits of the applicant and the actual application.   Furthermore, applicants are given room to describe specific aspects and modalities of the DMP in relation to their type of research. To this extent, there is not always necessarily a "correct" or "wrong" answer, as in some cases there may not even be such an answer.

The development of a DMP

Project supervisors (from 2018) and fellows (from 2020) will, upon being awarded their project or fellowship, be invited to develop their answers to the data management related questions into a DMP. The main host institutions for projects and fellowships will provide the standard template (which you can also find here) and assist the researchers with the drafting of the plan. The FWO expects a completed DMP to be submitted no later than 6 months after the start date of the project or fellowship.

The contact details of the main host institutions for DMP related questions and guidance are as follows:

The evaluation of the final reports on projects and fellowships will include a section on the implementation of the DMP.  Researchers are expected to append to their final report on the completed research, the final DMP, which of course may have been updated since its first version.

In all cases, the principle is that the supervisor of a project, and later the holder of a fellowship, remains accountable at all times for the data management of their respective project or fellowship.