Data Management Plan (DMP)
Data management constitutes an integral part of sound scientific research. Researchers need to consider the following elements:
- the description of data and their associated explanatory metadata;
- the storage and long-term preservation of the data;
- the designation of responsible persons;
- the indication of costs involved;
- the handling of sensitive data;
- the open access to and sharing of research data.
Quality data management is a key element of the FWO policies. For all funding programs in which financial resources are deployed to conduct scientific research, FWO expects researchers to pay adequate attention to data management before, during and at least five years after the research.
This page provides background information on data management and the procedure to follow when preparing an application for new research funding and when the funding has been obtained.
The importance of data management
Quality data management as a catalyst for knowledge development
By means of the DMP, FWO wants to encourage researchers to ensure that their data management complies as much as possible with the 'FAIR' principles. This means that data must be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable. More information about FAIR data management can be found in the publication by Wilkinson et al. (2016). By using the FAIR-Aware tool, researchers can assess how FAIR their research data are. It should be noted that FAIR data are not necessarily ‘open’. Open data are publicly accessible and reusable by anyone. However, there may be valid reasons to restrict the access to data (i.e. privacy, intellectual property rights, ethical aspects, dual use, etc.). FWO advises researchers to apply the principle 'as open as possible, as closed as necessary'.
Quality data management leads to efficiency gains for researchers, funders, governments, industry as well as citizens. FAIR datasets increase the transparency of scientific research on the one hand and facilitate knowledge generation based on these datasets by various stakeholders on the other hand. By means of the DMP, the researcher is asked to already consider all aspects of data management in the early stages of their research. Consequently, the DMP serves as a tool for the researcher during the planning and execution of the scientific work.
The regional and international context
The European Commission has established policies on DMP for many years. Specifically, within the Horizon Europe program, a DMP is mandatory for all projects that generate or reuse data (as indicated in the program guide). In addition, other organizations and networks in Europe have created and implemented policies on data management.
For example, Science Europe, the umbrella organization of European research funders and knowledge institutions of which the FWO is a founding member, has been working on the topic of data management for several years. In January 2021, the Science Europe working group on ‘Data Sharing and Supporting Infrastructure’ launched its expanded edition of the ‘Practical Guide to the International Alignment of Research Data Management’. The first version of this document was published in 2019 and has been implemented in many organizations. This guide includes the minimum requirements for a DMP and the criteria for selecting trusted digital repositories for research data.
In Flanders, the Flemish Research Data Network (FRDN) was established at the end of 2019. This is a network of 36 Flemish research institutions collaborating on Open and FAIR data. The task force DMP of the FRDN, in which all Flemish research funders and research institutions were represented, developed the Flemish Standard DMP template in 2021. For more information on this topic we refer to the FRDN webpage. This DMP template was adopted as the FWO template on October 1, 2022.
The FWO procedure
Data management and those responsible for it
In the context of Open Science, FWO stimulates high-quality data management and tries to build the necessary trust to evolve towards open and FAIR Data as much as possible. FWO emphasises the importance of sustainable preservation and management of data. The objective is to ensure that data are preserved for at least five years after the end of the research. The questions related to DMP in the application form are related to this central aspect.
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:
- Describe the datatypes (surveys, sequences, manuscripts, objects … ) the research will collect and/or generate and /or (re)use. (use up to 700 characters)
- Specify in which way the following provisions are in place in order to preserve the data during and at least 5 years after the end of the research? Motivate your answer. (use up to 700 characters)
- Designation of responsible person (If already designated, please fill in his/her name.)
- Storage capacity/repository
- during the research
- after the research
- What’s the 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)
- Are there issues concerning research data indicated in the ethics questionnaire of this application form? Which specific security measures do those data require? (use up to 700 characters)
- Which other issues related to the data management are relevant to mention? (use up to 700 characters)
These questions and the corresponding answers are part of the application file to be submitted to the evaluators. The applicants are not expected to present a detailed plan of approach at this stage, but rather to provide essential but concise information that can later be developed into a DMP. The answers to these questions as well as the DMP should cover the full project, including all national and international partners involved in cross-institution projects.
The evaluation panels and external referees (for programs with external peer review) that assess the applications also inspect this part of the evaluation. For this reason, the DMP questionnaire is an integral part of the application file.
Developing a DMP
For all FWO-funded research projects with a start date on January 1, 2019 or later, an initial DMP must be developed within 6 months of the official start of the project. The initial DMP should not be submitted to FWO, but to the research coordination office of the host institution (or the department responsible for data management); however, FWO can request the DMP in a random check. For projects started before January 1, 2019, the preparation of a DMP is not mandatory, but FWO recommends a DMP nonetheless as an integral part of sound scientific research. In this case, a DMP can also be submitted to the research coordination office of the host institution. Predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows must meet the DMP requirement as well from the 2020 application round onwards. In the case of cross-institution projects, it is the responsibility of the supervisor-spokesperson or the fellowship holder to ensure that the DMP for the entire project is submitted timely to the research coordination office of the main host institution. This DMP does not have to be submitted to the other host institutions. The DMP should always cover the full project, including all contributions from national and international partners in the case of cross-institution projects. Even if the effective start date of a project or mandate differs from the official start date (e.g. due to a temporary suspension of a fellowship as a result of a research stay abroad), the initial DMP must be submitted to the research coordination office of the main host institution within 6 months of the official start date. This deadline can only exceptionally be postponed in cases of force majeure (e.g. due to sick leave, maternity leave or parental leave), always in consultation with FWO.
At the end of the project, the final version of the DMP must be attached to the final report of the project. This final version must be submitted to FWO via the e-portal by the supervisor-spokesperson or fellowship holder. The final DMP should be fully updated. The DMP is taken into consideration during the final evaluation of the project by the evaluation panel. In the absence of a detailed DMP, the final report will be considered as incomplete.
It is mandatory to use a standard template for developing a DMP. The DMP can be created and updated in the online planning tool DMPonline. Through this tool, the DMP can be exported as a PDF, which has to be included in the final report of the project.
- https://dmponline.be/ for researchers affiliated to a host institution within the DMPBelgium consortium;
- https://www.kuleuven.be/rdm/en/guidance/dmp/dmp for researchers affiliated to KU Leuven.
The contact details of the main host institutions for DMP related questions and guidance are listed below:
- AMS: Chernelle Lambert (Chernelle.email@example.com);
- Hogere Zeevaartschool: Marc Vervoort (firstname.lastname@example.org);
- ITG: Sara Priem (ITMresearchdataaccess@itg.be);
- KU Leuven: email@example.com;
- UAntwerpen: Maarten Vermeyen and Maja Sahadzic (RDMfirstname.lastname@example.org);
- UGent: email@example.com;
- UHasselt: Hanne Poelmans (firstname.lastname@example.org);
- UZA: email@example.com;
- Vlerick: Evelien de Ferrerre (firstname.lastname@example.org);
- VUB: email@example.com.
Programs with specific requirements
Data Management Plan (DMP) for ERA-NET projects
A data management plan (DMP) must be provided that at least relates to the research project financed by the FWO within the framework of the relevant European network. The DMP document of that network can suffice for this.
Within six months after the official start of the project, the supervisor-spokesperson of the FWO project must at least deposit the DMP with regard to their own project, but if desired the DMP of the entire consortium of which the FWO project is part, to its Flemish main host institution, or provide a link to this document. If not possible, they can indicate that a DMP, at project level and/or consortium level, has been started.
After the end of the FWO project, the promoter-spokesperson of the FWO project must submit the final version of the DMP with regard to their own project, or if appropriate the DMP of the consortium of which the FWO project is part, at their main Flemish host institution. This final DMP must be kept by the main Flemish host institution for at least five years and must be provided to the FWO upon request.
Data Management Plan (DMP) for EOS projects
A DMP must be developed within six months after the official start of the EOS project. The DMP should cover the entire EOS project, not only the Flemish part. If the spokesperson-coordinator is affiliated with a TYPE I-FL institution, he/she is responsible for submitting the DMP to the research coordination office of the main host institution. If the spokesperson-coordinator is affiliated with a TYPE I-FR institution, the Flemish researchers involved have to appoint a Flemish partner that will submit the DMP. This has to be indicated when submitting the project application in the subsequent EOS call (from 2025). The initial DMP should be submitted within 6 months after the official start date of the project to the research coordination office of the main host institution of this Flemish partner.
At the end of the project the final version of the DMP has to be added to the final report of the project via the e-portal of the spokesperson-coordinator. The final DMP should be a fully updated version.