Data Support Resources For Macalester Faculty, Students, and Staff

The Research Data Management Support pages are for guidance and resources on faculty data management and data management plans.


About the NSF Data Management Plan Requirements

NSFNSF proposals submitted or due on or after January 18, 2011, must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan”. This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to the requirements laid out in Public Access To Results of NSF-Funded Research and the Award and Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter VI.D.4. These state that either the version of record or the final accepted manuscript in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions must:

  1. Be deposited in a public access compliant repository designated by NSF;
  2. Be available for download, reading and analysis free of charge no later than 12 months after initial publication;
  3. Possess a minimum set of machine-readable metadata elements in a metadata record to be made available free of charge upon initial publication;
  4. Be managed to ensure long-term preservation; and
  5. Be reported in annual and final reports during the period of the award with a persistent identifier that provides links to the full text of the publication as well as other metadata elements.

For details see the NSF’s Public Access Plan, of which Section 3.1 lists the above requirements.

Your data management plan may also include:

  1. the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  2. the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
  3. policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
  4. policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
  5. plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

(Numbers 1-5 all from: NSF Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter II.C.2.j)

Data Planning Guide for Faculty and Staff

Questions Used in Planning During project Post project
Who will access and use your data? Potential answers: You, members of research team, research assistants, student employees. Potential answers: Publicly available, limited to particular organization(s) [e.g. academic institution, professional society], limited to subscribers of journal with associated published article, original research team, no one.
What file formats will you use? Software limitations sometimes dictate file types. Questions to ask: What software is available/commonly used to all researchers within the field? What software is required for specific types of analysis? Is it possible to convert data files to an open file type post-project? Preferably use an open, non-proprietary, file format in order to increase the likelihood of your data being usable in the future. File format selection guide.
What is the naming convention for your files? Use descriptive names, followed by a date (e.g. file creation date, data creation date, or file modification date). Use a numerical dating format to allow for easy sorting, for example use mmddyyyy like this 04232014. Use same naming philosophy as used for during your project. Make sure names are intuitive as possible for the general public.
Do you have the necessary permissions to publish the data? Questions to ask: Does your data include any copyrighted information? Are you working under agreements with other individuals or organizations obligating you to not share? Could the data be used to identify individuals, if so, do you have their permission to share information about them? Are there security or safety issues to consider that may be compromised if data your data was available? Same as during the project.
Who is responsible for managing the data? This could be same people, or subset of the people, who have access to the data. It could also be someone outside the project with technological expertise providing support. Questions to consider: Is the data going to stay in your control? If you want to make it more widely available, what are your options and requirements? If affiliated with an educational institution or research institute, does your organization have an online data repository? Is there an online repository for your academic discipline? Are you working with a publisher that has requirements about where you publish your data?
Where will the data be stored? Questions to ask: How much storage space is needed? Is it possible to control access to groups or individuals? Is it reliable and secure? Does it allow for easy uploading or downloading? If you publish your data will the publisher be able to meet your potential requirements. Possible requirements: Embargo period, control access to specific groups of people, provide a stable url or DOI, handle unique file types, handle large file sizes, long term or permanent access.
Where/ How will you backup your data? Make sure your back-up copies of your data are stored in a separate location than your working copies. Cloud based services such Google Drive can be a good option. If changes are being made to your data make sure back-ups are being made on a regular basis, either after each change or on a regular schedule. Do you need to make sure your data is preserved for future use? If you publish your data, make sure the publisher back-ups your data.
How should your data be made accessible? Questions to consider: Are there going to be multiple users? If so, will these people need to access the data online from different locations? Will there need to be varying levels of access rights (e.g. some people who can only view the data, others who can edit the data, and others who can see only a portion of the files)? Questions to consider: Will your data be available for free for all? Will you charge for your data? Do users of your data have to agree to any terms? Will you be limiting use of your data to a certain group of people?
Does the data include any sensitive or confidential information? Could your data be used to identify individuals? Consult Macalester’s Data Classification Policy ( Should you restrict access to your data? Should portions of your data be removed prior to publications?
Is your data well documented? Make sure to include basic information about your data: Who contributed? What kind of data is it? How was it analyzed? When was the data collected? Does it pertain to a particular geographic area? Why was it collected? Use clear naming conventions. Create a glossary for your variables. The Digital Curation Center has a list of discipline specific metadata standards: Documentation files should be accessible at the same location as data files. Include such things as codebooks, summaries, and data glossaries.

Contact your Research and Instruction Librarian for Further Help